Monday, February 27, 2012

March (Early March) Garden Talks

Hello again,

February is leaving us with little snow in Skillin's Country. Contrast that with last year when we were buried deep. Who knows what turns our weather will take in March?

Here is a pretty good list of practical gardening tips for all of us:

*If you have ornamental grasses in your yard and you left them uncut in the fall for winter interest, then the "thrill" is probably gone. In other words, Mr. Winter has probably left your grasses bleached out and matted from earlier snow. When you can get the shears out and prune those grasses hard--to within an inch or two of the soil line. As I like to say to wary gardeners: "show them (the plants) who is boss"! This type of pruning will ensure a nice compact, thick and balanced growth habit going into the Spring and summer.

If Your Ornamental Grasses are Looking a Little Worn Like These Then Early March can be a Great Time to  Trim Them Back!

*March is the ideal time to prune your fruit trees while they are still dormant ( before the buds show any green). Take out any dead and winter-damaged wood, suckers at the base and branches that rub against one another. Then, thin out the interior so it's not crowded or twiggy. Finally, shape the tree overall to maintain a healthy, pleasant stature. Good fruit tree production starts in March with good pruning! Click HERE for more pruning details and pics!

*Terry Skillin also wants to remind you that the end of March or beginning of April is a good time to start your dormant oil program. Regular spraying is necessary for a quality yield of fruit. We sell some very safe sprays for your fruit trees that will help combat insect and disease. Combine your spraying with good pruning like we discussed above means you will be well on your way to a great yield of fruit. You know Terry and I love fresh apples, pears, peaches and more so if you grow some good "stuff" bring a piece or two for us!

*When you are able to get outdoors for some garden chores, be careful of your wet lawn and garden soil. Trodding too often on very wet soil can tear at your lawn but even more depressing compress the top part of your soil. Hey ground was made for "walkin'" on but just be sparing in making your tracks!

Our Garden Soil Should be a Little Dryer Than This Before We "Trod" On It!

*Get your Garden Journal ready to record what works and what doesn't, sketches, bloom times and to do's for later in the month. Got a Journal? Check out last year's journal or notes. Now is a great time to do that!

*Okay, we are all pumped about Spring and starting seeds. But it is better to start seeds later rather than sooner in most cases. As our friend Margaret of A Way to Garden reminds us: "Small, compact seedlings are better than older, leggy ones for transplanting. Only leeks and onions should be started indoors before mid-month. After that, the pace quickens: Sow cool-season crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts mid-March, to set out six weeks later." Jeff Skillin is adamant that tomatoes do not get started until April 15 or after. Warm weather loving vine crops like squashes and cukes do not get started until well into May!

*March is a GREAT time to start tuberous begonias early. I recommend starting them in peat pots during this month. You get a huge head start on the growth of the begonia and that means they will be almost ready to flower when you set them out doors in the ground or in a larger container in late May. And because they are in peat pots they can just be placed into the ground OR in the larger pots without disturbing the roots of the begonia! The same principle holds true for dahlias--our begonias are available now; our dahlias will be available before the end of March.

Tuberous Begonias are just a Wonderful Plant to Grow. March is a Great Month to Start Them Early!

*The birds are still feeding heavily from our feeders. Make sure you provide them quality seeds (we can show you here at Skillin's). And keep the food dry in their feeders. Should we get any torrential rains, make sure any exposed seed is cleaned out of the feeder!

*Come see Skillin's and many other good displays at the Portland Flower Show. The show runs from March 7 through March 11.

*This time of year is still a great time of year to cut some flowering branches (like forsythia) early and force them to flower inside the house, to read more about seed starting, to get an understanding of how many of our houseplants and to do some vegetable garden planting. All of this and more is covered in our mid February Garden Talks!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 27, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February (mid February) Gardening Tips

Hello again,

Here are some bullet points for mid February:

1. Plan your vegetable gardens. To avoid insect and disease repetition try to "rotate" your vegetable locations. This is especially important for tomatoes. Out of space? Plant tomatoes in containers....this will work fine. Use a great soil like Bar Harbor Blend by Coast of Maine, supplement with an organic food like Espoma's Garden Tone and be prepared to water your tomatoes often and thoroughly if they are in containers.

February is a Good Month for Garden Planning and Other Tasks!

The last couple of years I have used Earth Boxes for my tomatoes and other vegetables. They are awesome and easy. We have them--let us show you how to use the Earth Boxes!

2. Houseplants will soon need more water but we believe it is still best in most cases to thoroughly water your plants, drain off excess water and then let your houseplants go solidly dry before you water them again. Over watering causes more problems than letting your plants going dry this time of year. Have lots of plants--especially big ones? We have well priced and very reliable Moisture Meters that can easily tell you when to water your plants.

3. Speaking of houseplants they will soon be responding to the  brighter sun. Years ago in "Crockett's Indoor Garden", Jim Crockett wrote about houseplants and February that "This is the best time to prune, re pot and propagate most plants, so they can take full advantage of the longs months of Spring and summer to grow and establish their roots....This is the best time of year to propagate a Boston fern by pinning a runner to moist soil; if you have not done so by all means divide your Boston fern this month....If you have a camellia (bouganvillea, azalea and other tropical flowering plants also qualify) that is completely pot bound, February is the time of year to re pot it, assuming that the blossom period is over."

When you re pot a plant, use a great natural potting soil like Bar Harbor Blend by Coast of Maine. Bar Harbor blend is locally produced, well priced, best quality and sold right here at Skillin's! Also never dramatically increase the size of the pot....only move up the diameter of the pot 1 to 2" in most cases.

4. Speaking of Jim Crockett, he gives some fun seed starting advice: Marigolds can be planted from seed right now and soon you will have some fun flowering plants. Once the plants are growing give them a twice weekly quick shower in the sink but the warm sun makes them a terrific windowsill plant for February and March. Mr. Crockett recommends the French Marigold or more dwarf types for more compact indoor flowering.

A Fun Plant to Grow from Seed for you Windowsill!

5. This is a great time to prune grape vines. And decidous trees as well for good shaping.

6. Another note from Mr. Crockett in his classic Crockett's Victory Garden: "February is also the month to begin forcing branches of flowering trees and shrubs, including forsythia, spirea, Japanese quince, apple, plum, peach and pussy willow. There are two reasons that some gardeners don't have success with forcing branches: they try to force flowers too quickly in a warm room: or they fail to counteract the arid indoor air, so the latent flower or buds dehydrate instead of opening. But there is a way to avoid both these problems. First of all, wrap the bunches of stems in several layers of damp newspaper; then set them into water in a cool, brightly lit but not sunny room. The buds will stay springtime-moist and will open to their fullest beauty."

Forsythia Branches Can Be Forced for Great Winter Color!

7. Gardening friend Margaret of A Way to Garden has 20 FAQ's about seed starting. Her post is not short but that means it is chock full of great information. I have read it and learned quite a bit and also was reminded of quite a bit more. We also have a great Seed Starting class coming up on March 3 here at Skillin's!

8. Give your houseplants a good spray on the foliage on a regular basis. Common insects like spider mites, mealybugs and aphids love to exist in dusty environments. Weekly sprayings of water keep your plants clean and is a great natural way to help keep the bugs away!

9. February and March are good times to prune deciduous hedges not only for height but also to thin out the interiors. They will soon grow back nice green growth. But our hedges do get quite thick and that thickness can lead to disease on the foliage when the air gets thick and humid in Skillin's Country.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 15, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Hello again,

Following is a nice handout prepared by Melissa Madigan for our upcoming Terrarium class (class to be held this Saturday in Brunswick, Cumberland and Falmouth. We still have openings in Brunswick at 10 AM--call them at 442-8111 or 1-800-339-8111 to reserve a spot!).


            Making terrariums can be quick, easy and doesn't have to be expensive. To save money on your terrariums, shop discount stores, flea markets or consignment shops, where you can find really cheap yet great looking glass containers, jars or even goldfish bowls. The terrarium plants you’ll use are generally small houseplants, which often only cost a couple of bucks each. If you choose a really dramatic container and an attractive set of plants you can make a  beautiful terrarium in less than an hour! Terrariums also make wonderful and impressive gifts, even for people who consider themselves plant-challenged.

The Basics:
There are three kinds of terrariums: Closed
Within the closed and open types there can either woodland or houseplant types, and all terrariums are governed by light.

Containers: they should be interesting and unique as possible, be made of clear glass and have an opening that you can easily work thru.
Drainage materials: mixed charcoal with rocks, sea glass or sand (or any other clean course material) this allows for good drainage of water in the terrarium
                                       Spaghnum moss - this prevents the soil in your terrarium from settling down into the pebble layer. If you don’t like spaghnum moss you can use a piece of landscape fabric.
Then top that all off with good organic soil.

Plants: there are lots of great terrarium plants to choose from.  Make sure to buy plants that are small enough to fit into your terrarium jar. Select an odd number of plants with a variety of leaf shapes, color and textures. Some good choices: Croton, Pothos, Dracaena, Small Ferns, Lucky Bamboo, Prayer Plant, Club moss, Creeping fig, Irish moss, Artillery fern, Polka dot plant, Aluminum plant, Peperomia, Ivy.

Watering: You should use either distilled water, or water that you have allowed to set out over night (this will help eliminate salt build up). Most terrariums will only need a light monthly watering. The thirst of plants in a terrarium (and in general) will vary according to the type of terrarium you have, the weather outside, the amount of light you are providing it, the type of heat in your home and room temperature. You can use a spray bottle or watering can with a rose attachment on the spout to water your terrarium. You don’t want it to be soaking wet, just damp. Err on the side of too little rather than too much water.

Right after you plant your terrarium you will need to balance the moisture content. You will do this by leaving the cover on for a few days and checking the condensation inside. If you have droplets formed at the top of your container or on the sides just above the moss, your moisture is correct. If you have overwatered and the entire terrarium is covered with heavy condensation, you should take the cover off, wipe out all the condensation and return the cover. You will keep doing this until you have just a few drops forming.

You can also use the spray bottle to clean off any dirt that has clung to the glass sides of your container, which you can then wipe clean with paper towel or newsprint.
Never use glass cleaner on the inside of a planted terrarium, as it could make your plants sick.
Light: Light is the food of plants. Without a good source of light, plants will gradually perish. However, do not move your plants around to follow the sun. Plants are oriented to the light an do not thrive if they have to repeatedly re-orient themselves. Do turn the terrarium gradually, over a period of time, if the plants are all growing to one side.Most flowering plants need sunlight to bloom. If you are unable to provide a good 4 to 6 hours of light try  daylight in combination of fluorescent light or a grow light. Keep the lights on for at least 12 hours a day. Plants like regularity, so be consistent with the time you turn them on and off.
Ongoing care: Water only when the soil feels dry to the touch, fertilize sparingly. You will want to replace plants that droop or develop spindly stems. Maintain the correct moisture and light levels to avoid problems. Remove spent blossoms on flowering plants and any leaves that drop off.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vegetable Gardening Q & A

Hello again,

Recently great gardener Margaret of A Way to Garden hosted a wonderful Vegetable Gardening Q & A session on her website with C.R. Lawn the Maine based founder of Fedco Seeds. Mr. Lawn talks about many of his favorite varieties of vegetables. At Skillin's we have more than a few of these plants (as actual plants or seeds) available in the Spring--such as Brandywine Tomato, one of the most favorite heirlooms.

Click HERE for the Q & A!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Great Garden Can Be Made in the Shade!

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 a recent post written by Paul that gives some great pointers about gardening in the shade:

"If you're a gardener that has a shady yard, consider yourself lucky--yes, lucky. Why? Because you can grow many more unique plants than the gardener who has nothing but direct sun all day, and the flowers you grow will do better than those grown in full sun all day. Just because you cannot grow roses in your yard doesn't make shade a bad thing. Learn to use the shade to your advantage. Appreciate the shade and its benefits to you and your family. Think about this, are you more comfortable relaxing in the shade on a hot summer's day? Consider that working in the garden is a lot easier without the direct sun baring down on you--and your shady patio or deck is a more peaceful place to relax on than in the hot sun.

All I want you to think about today is accepting the fact that living and gardening in the shade is like having friends and not enemies. To determine how to enjoy these friends you will need to know more about them. Begin by determining the amount of shade you have in your gardens, because few gardens are in shade all day long unless they are up against the north side of your house and your yard is completely covered with trees. When you're spending the day outside working in the yard is the best time to determine this.

This is what I want you to do. You will need a large pad of paper to draw the individual gardens on, pencils, a kitchen timer and your watch. Begin by drawing out the gardens on the pad of paper, go out into the yard at 8:00 AM, and write on the paper what the light conditions are. If part of the garden is in sun, make a line through the garden where the lights is at 8:00 am and mark the time on the line. Do this for each garden. Set the kitchen timer for one hour and then check out the garden again when the buzzer goes off and make a new line where the sun is at 9:00 am.

Do this all day to determine where you are receiving morning or late in the day sunlight in the garden and where it stays shady all day. The light map you have created will help you select the right plant for each section of your garden. If your shade is made by leaf trees, you will have to wait until the leaves develop on the tree to be more accurate--but with evergreens, it can be done now while you have time. During May is the best time to make this map, as the sun is higher in the sky and will better represent the growing conditions of the summer. This way you will know which plants to choose for the garden while the selection is best at the garden center. You will discover that there are hundreds of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and, yes, even some vegetables that will thrive in your shady gardens.

The map you created will help you select the best plants for your shade gardens. Plant material is expensive, so why guess and put the wrong plant in the garden and have the plant fail to grow for you? This spring, as you're cleaning out the gardens after the winter and preparing them for the spring, make this sun map before adding new plants or moving old plants around the garden.

Don't complain about what you cannot grow in your garden because of the quality of the sunlight. Instead, learn what to plant and rejoice over what you can now grow in that same garden. The place where you had little to no success in the past can now become your showplace garden of the future. Here are a few things to think about when you create a shade garden.

Here are some benefits of a shady garden:

Plants grown in the shade require less watering all year long, no matter what your soil is like. These plants will also require less fertilizer because they grow slower and less overall than sun growing plants. These plants also require less maintenance and care to grow and thrive in your shade garden. These plants will tolerate abuse and you're neglecting them better than sun-grown plants.

Hosta and Heuchera are 2 favorites for Shade Gardens
Plants grown in the shade will have better foliage color that is darker and never burnt out by the hot sun. The plants that flower will have more vivid colors as the sun will not fade them. These flowers will blossom longer and the flowers will stay on the plant at least an additional day, keeping your garden more colorful.

Shade gardens have fewer weeds growing in them, as most weeds love the brightness of the sun--especially grassy type weeds like crabgrass. In drought situations, shade garden plants fare better with the heat and lack of rainfall; they also recover faster when the moisture returns to the garden. If you're applying bark mulch or compost to cover the soil to protect the plants roots during the year, less will be needed, saving you money and the labor to apply it to the garden.

Plants grown in the shade have less winter damage or dieback on them when spring arrives, because the temperature around the garden stays more even and the sun is less likely to damage the foliage of evergreen plants. You also get less wind damage to the plants in these gardens, because the plants are more sheltered during the winter months and snow stays on the ground longer, acting like a blanket to protect those less hardy plants in the garden. Fewer insects prefer the shade to the sun garden and that means less spraying and care needed by you.

I want you to think about this carefully, because all perennials, shrubs and trees only flower for a short time, usually 4 to 8 weeks--depending on the time of the year and the temperatures outside. This is your opportunity to select plants for the texture, color, form and shape of their foliage. Think about fruit or berries on these plants and mixing the light and dark foliage for better contrast in the garden. Shade gardens are the perfect place to add lighting fixtures to help show off the branches of the trees overhead and create interesting shadow patterns on the ground.

Tuberous Begonias Make a Great Shade Annual in Ground or in Containers!

The number one thing about a shade garden is that you have the ability to make more sun possible for the plants by pruning the lower branches on the trees, making the sunlight stronger or increasing the duration of the sun. In a sun garden, it is often difficult to create shade for the plants without planting large and expensive trees, shrubs, or structures like trellises and arbors to produce shade for the plants.

On the negative side, shade gardens develop more slowly in the spring unless the shade comes from deciduous trees--evergreen trees definitely slow the development of your spring garden. On the other hand, shade gardens are often protected from the frost better and extend the garden appearance longer into the fall season. More ground cover plants prefer the shade and this is the perfect place to add a whole new family of plants to your garden with the many varieties of ferns, which are not grown in the sun.

To me the most limiting factor of a shade garden is the roots of the large trees around the garden and this is where you will need help from your local garden center or nursery to select the right plants. Bring your plan, measurements, the sun map, and pictures of the area along with a sample of your soil and you will soon be on the right path to a beautiful "Shade Garden." Enjoy!"

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
Feburary 6, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Selecting the Right Site, Preparing it Well, Planting it Wisely

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 a recent post written by Paul that talks well about how to plan a garden and landscape concept. Then once the concept is planned how to execute that plan! This is a great post to think about this time of year and then this post can serve as a reference once the gardening season begins!:

"Let's use the winter months wisely this year to make our gardens of 2012 the ones to remember. The garden that is prepared properly will produce plants that will develop better, perform better, thrive and because of this these plants will be more resistant to insects and disease problems. If you want your plants to reward you for your efforts, let's take a few minutes and talk about the "basics" that we sometimes forget all about the sun, the soil and the care.

When you look to purchase a new home I know you have heard this phrase; " Location, Location, Location." This is the first step when planning your garden, because the specially chosen plants you want to grow in your yard will need specific growing conditions. Look around your property and pick the right location first. Sunshine, or should I say the intensity and duration of the sunshine, is the first and most important factor to consider for a specific type of garden.

Stand in the middle of your yard and say to yourself the following: "southern exposure is the best place to grow a garden; next best is eastern exposure with morning sunshine, western exposure with late in the day sun and last--but not least--is a northern exposure for the shade garden."

Now break down the yard again into two main areas. The front of the house--this is your formal area for the public view and for you to show off what you can do in the garden--your "bragging rights." The back of the house is your private area, a working area and a place for all to enjoy your property, even a place to hang out the laundry so the neighbors don't see your underwear drying in the sunshine.

When you design your home landscaping, you will want to scatter color for all seasons in front of the house because your yard is seen all year. The back yard is enjoyed from May to October by you and your family and you should concentrate on plants that give you enjoyment while you're there to enjoy it. If you're not sitting on your deck during April, why plant azaleas that are in bloom at that time there? Save the space for hydrangeas (for example) that will flower July, August and September when you're there to enjoy your back yard deck.

This winter, make a plan of your property, take pictures of what is there, and visit your local nursery or garden center for advice to improve what you currently have in place. I'm not saying start over--what I want you to do is ask for help to improve what you currently have. If you want to make your yard kid friendly, if you want to install a waterfall and fish pond, if you just want a garden to enjoy while you're outside enjoying the summer. Tell the person whether you like gardening and would enjoy working in one or whether you'd rather plant it and forget it.

Many nurseries can make suggestions to help you out with a quick plan of your yard or, for a few dollars, they can design a full-scale plan for the entire property. If you're going to do it yourself, do it in sections--one garden area at a time--so you can enjoy your work in the yard. Alternatively, you can hire someone to do it for you--and in a short time, your gardens are all in place. Start with a plan, visit the nursery and look at the plants suggested for your yard and ask your gardening friends about these plants, even show them your plan for their feedback. Your gardening friends know you and how you enjoy your yard and I'm sure they will be happy to give you suggestions or recommendation to improve on the current plan to fit your needs better.

One last thing before having your yard landscaped and very important, always go to the nursery to select and tag the plants to be used in your yard. Tag the trees to be used, as you know what type of character you would enjoy from that plant. You're part of this design and you should have the right to select the plants to be used in your garden.

Soil preparation is also very important and make sure you condition the soil before planting. Soil additives like compost, animal manure or even digging an oversize hole and back filling with extra top soil or loam can make a big difference in the development of your plants. If your soil is sandy, stony or heavy clay without proper conditioning, your plants will not perform properly once installed in your yard without lots of extra help from you during the year.

When the plants arrive, be home to examine the plants before they are planted. Have the landscaper set up the planting to your liking before they plant. Be there and stay involved during the planting because some time looking out the kitchen window a plant will not do what you want it to unless it is moved just a couple feet over to the right or left that may not be noticeable on your plan. Work with the Forman and his helpers but don't become a pest!

Ask for their suggestions while they plant, as they have the experience and they want you to be happy with their work. You never know what you will find while planting and it may be necessary to move things around a bit or even bring in extra top soil and plant on a raised mound to do the job right. This is an investment in your home--just like a rug or couch in the living room--so be happy before it's all planted and the landscape people have left.

When you select a plant, find out how to care for it and what you can expect from that plant's performance in your yard. Make sure before the landscape crew leaves that you walk the property with them and they answer all your questions about the plants and their care. If you should see a problem developing, don't wait. Call the nursery that did the planting or where you purchased the plant that you planted.

Try to purchase plants that will do several things for you, like spring flowers with and fall fruit, summer flowers with fall colored foliage, a thick-growing privacy hedge with unusual winter character. If your town is always on water restrictions during the summer months, how about plants that require less watering or plants that will grow well in wet areas and help to drink up the extra surface water. If you live on a corner lot, how about selecting a fast growing plant to create a privacy hedge and control the road noise at the same time. Something that is hard to find in nature is a plant that flowers and is fragrant at the same time.

Think seasons of the year and what these plants have to offer you each season, think of the maintenance required by you during the year, and the benefits of the plants to your living space. Do your research first, then ask questions, ask more questions, and only then plan your living area outside when you know the benefits of each plant. Remember my motto: "There are no dumb garden questions!!!" Enjoy.

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 5, 2012

Skillin's March and April 2012 Classes and Events!

Hello again,

Here are some terrific March and April 2012 Classes and Events for Skillin's!

Our classes will be held Saturdays at all three locations (unless otherwise stated).  Space is limited so reserve today for the classes of your choice! Class participants receive a special  Skillin’s 10% discount coupon for use on the weekend of your class.

You may reserve a spot by emailing us at (please specify location, date and time of class) or by calling us at:

Brunswick     442-8111 or 800-339-8111
Cumberland   829-5619 or 800-348-8498

Falmouth      781-3860 or 800-244-3860
Customers who attend 8 classes in this series (starting with the March classes) receive a $50 Skillin’s Gift Certificate. Each SUBJECT counts for ONE class!

March 1, 8, 15 and 22 Techniques in Floral Design (10 AM Cumberland only)
Topics: Designing in Foam, Techniques in Glass, Creating a Centerpiece, and Topiary Forms. $75.00 includes materials.

This class is Sold Out.

March 3 Seed Starting (10 am and 2 pm)

You’re just in time; many seeds need to be sown in late winter and early spring. Skillin’s has been performing this ritual for 127 Springs (hey you are as young as you feel!) and we really have it under our green thumb. We will share with you some of our home spun techniques. It’s time to get started. Free

A Recent Skillin's Classroom! What Fun!!

March 10 Fresh Floral Arranging (10 am and 2 pm)

How about brightening your home with fresh flowers arranged by you? This is our most popular hands on class. There is limited space so sign up early. $15.00 material fee

(Falmouth March 10 classes are Sold Out. Special encore classes scheduled for Falmouth on March 11 @ 11 and 2 PM!!)
(Cumberland March 10 10 AM class is Sold Out; openings remain in afternoon)

March 17 Pruning for a Purpose (10 am and 2 pm Brunswick AND Cumberland)

To prune or not to prune, that is the growing question. Proper pruning makes our outdoor trees and shrubs look great and healthy. Learn techniques to help rejuvenate and keep your landscape in shape. Free

Cumberland 3/17 Pruning Class is Full!

March 17 Garden Social Falmouth Open House 11 AM to 4 PM

March 18 Vegetable Gardening (11 AM only Falmouth, part of our Open House celebration!) (SOLD OUT)

March 18 Orchids and Their Care (2 PM only Falmouth, part of our Open House celebration!)
March 24 Garden Social Brunswick and Cumberland Open House 11 AM to 4 PM

March 25 Vegetable Gardening (11 AM only Brunswick and Cumberland, part of our Open House celebration!)

Let us give you the best tips going for how to plan and prepare a vegetable garden. Over the years, we have seen the good and the bad so we can advise on the best and safest steps to be had. Free

March 20 The Color Palette  (10 AM Falmouth Only) (SOLD OUT)

Plant combinations for a colorful palette from frost to frost and beyond….Today (March 20) is the First Day of Spring. That is saying so much right there! Life would be full of fright if it was just gray and white; having “months long” color of many types in the garden does not have to be a fight. Let us show you what we mean, yes color means so much more than JUST green! Free

A Great Example of Months Long Color in the Garden

March 24 Pruning for a Purpose (10 AM and 2 PM Falmouth Only)

To prune or not to prune, that is the growing question. Proper pruning makes our outdoor trees and shrubs look great and healthy. Learn techniques to help rejuvenate and keep your landscape in shape. Free

(10 AM Falmouth is SOLD OUT)

March 31 Gardening 101 (10 am and 2 pm)

What better way to celebrate spring than to talk about some gardening basics that you may be wondering about. We are gardening in Maine; what plants work reliably the best? Why lime my lawn? What fertilizer should I use that is best for my yard but also our planet? I have a budget, how can I stretch my dollars? For 127 springs we have been answering these and many other gardening questions. Let’s talk gardening and learn. We will emphasize how best to Plant for the Planet in your yard! Free and well worth more!

 (10 AM Falmouth is SOLD OUT)

April 7 Outdoor Gardening with Annuals and Perennials (10 am and 2 pm) (10 AM Falmouth is SOLD OUT)

The classics and the new! The red, purple, yellow and blue! Butterflies can be free to fly, hummingbirds to almost sing in your garden. People change, plants too; we would love to show you what to do! Here too, there are some very awesome plants we can show you that grow well in Maine. Free

(10 AM Falmouth is SOLD OUT)

A Nice Use of Perennials in the Garden!

April 14 Lawn Care Done Easily and Well (10 AM and 2 PM, 10 AM only in Falmouth)

Do you want a lush green lawn safe for kids and pets? The goal of this class is to give you the information and resources needed to have the lawn you want. You will discover how to create a self-sustaining lawn that safeguards the health of your family while saving you time and money! 

(10 AM Falmouth is SOLD OUT)

April 14 The Grass is Always Greener: Sustainable Strategies for the Home Landscape (2 PM Falmouth only)

This is a new class and we are very excited about it. When it comes to gardening and caring for our earth we are in it for the long term. AND we think these ideas bring you better results year after year!

April 21 Container Gardening (10 am and 2 PM)

There is more than one way to garden. Whether you live in a condo, apartment, or want to use small spaces, gardening in containers provides a creative use of limited space. Let us show you how to grow season long flowers in creative ways. Free

(10 AM Falmouth and Cumberland is SOLD OUT)

April 28 Vegetable Gardening (10 AM Special Time)

Let us show you how to safely and smartly grow your own food. Gardening, especially vegetable gardening can be so rewarding and a fun and healthy activity too for family and friends! Free

Can't Wait for Spring? Skillin's Has Hanging Lettuce Now!

(Falmouth and Cumberland is sold out)
April 28 Container Edibles (2 PM only)

More and more of us want to grow some of our own food as naturally and conveniently as we can! Let us show you how—this will be a great way to learn some new tricks with vegetables and herbs that can be grown indoors AND out! Free 

(FALMOUTH CLASS IS SOLD OUT for 4/28; Special Encore Class Tuesday May 1! Sign Up Now!)

May 5 The Grass is Always Greener: Sustainable Strategies for the Home Landscape (10 AM Falmouth only)

This is a new class and we are very excited about it. When it comes to gardening and caring for our earth we are in it for the long term. AND we think these ideas bring you better results year after year!

(Special Encore Class--Openings Exist--Sign Up Now!)

Special Four Part Hands on Landscape Design Class


March 13, 20, 27 and April 3 5:00PM (Tuesdays)

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
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Skillin's Basics

Hello again,

It is a New Year and many of you email subscribers might be fairly new to Skillin's so I quickly want to review Skillin's history.

As you may or may not know we have been a family enterprise since 1885. We currently are in our 5th generation of Skillin's. Alexander "Pa" Skillin and his brother Charles founded Skillin's way back in 1885. At that time, Skillin's mostly catered to the crowd of people who populated Falmouth and other area estates in the summer. We sold our summer friends fresh cut flowers, garden plants, vegetables and knowing "Pa" we gave away lots of free stories. The business was indeed on the present Route 88 site in Falmouth. Charles soon drifted away to other pursuits but "Pa" stayed at it. I am not sure what “Pa” did year round but I do know he spent many nights shoveling coal into the furnace to keep the cold at bay.

Through the early 20th century the business grew as year round population started to become more and more common. By this time, Skillin's was doing much yard and tree work for people and "Pa" had been joined by his son Alexander or "Alec". My Aunt Sally fondly remembers "Alec" as the nicest man she has ever met (not bad considering he was her father in law). The business was growing into the year round selling of plants and we were also becoming a florist; my Aunt Florence (Alec's sister and daughter of "Pa") helped in the greenhouse and floral areas and also did the bookkeeping.

Aunt Florence had no children but Alec fathered John and David Skillin--the third generation--and many of you might know of them today. Tragedy struck in 1950 as Alec died of cancer. "Pa" was getting along in years (but still working, only taking less naps), John was attending college at UMO, and David was only 13. The decision was made for John to come home on weekends and work but for him to finish his education, for Dave to hopefully "turn out all right" and for Aunt Florence to "hang on" and wait for John. Aunt Florence was one brave lady and her contribution to Skillin's should never be forgotten.

John arrived on the scene fully in the spring of 1952 and the business was in tough shape. Alive but hurting. Times were tough and Skillin's owed many people a lot of money. Good and wise friends who knew finances were telling John and his family to give up the business--it could not work. John went around and promised to make good and then some on what was owed. If you ever knew John Skillin, you would trust him and believe him. Because he was John.
He delivered.

Dave Skillin arrived from the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture and a bout with the U.S. Navy in 1957. Aunt Florence was still on board. Larry Leeman, a trusted family friend, also came on board. "Pa" died in 1958 but momentum was strong--the Skillin's modern era had begun. John and Dave were young, personable, visionary and absolutely dedicated. Skillin's as you know it now was beginning to form. John and Dave used to visit many Massachusetts and Connecticut garden centers on trips to pick up the best in plant material. I have good memories of those trips as a child. They borrowed many good ideas and came up with a few of their own and developed Maine's first garden center and nursery. By 1966, our Falmouth gift shop was built with the help of good friend Fred Chase. Bright glass greenhouses were hauled up from Massachusetts. Skillin's Greenhouses was now a full scale greenhouse, nursery, garden center, gift shop and florist!

Skillin's was also one of the leading landscapers at the time. Dave Skillin headed this area of the business along with trusted and important friends like Al Lappin. Terry Skillin--the leader of the fourth generation--and Joel Leeman, still with Skillin's after 40 plus years got their start with Skillin's as landscapers. But Dave and John wanted to start a new store and make new friends, and this led to our opening of our second store in Brunswick Maine in 1969. The landscaping side was eventually closed as we focused on making Skillin's in Falmouth and Brunswick the type of stores you see today. John and Jeff Skillin built energy efficient true Solar greenhouses during the energy crisis days of the 1970's.

The early days were kind of quiet at times in Brunswick as Dave would often mow the lawn in the front just to let people know that we were there. Long days and nights were spent selling apples, cider and peanut butter at the Topsham Fair just so we could meet people. But as the greater Bath/Brunswick/Topsham area has grown so has Skillin's in Brunswick. We are now in our 44th year in Brunswick! Gordon Merrill and many others have picked up the baton from Dave Skillin and we have a first rate store and a first rate staff with people like Charley Madden and Chris Gill from our past leading to Hilda Green and now many others who are part of our present and future. And Gordon Merrill deserves special mention again--his dedication over the years has paid off in a model operation.

During the 70's and 80's we had 3 successful Mall stores at the Maine Mall, Promenade Mall in Lewiston, and the Windham Mall. Terry Skillin (fourth generation) came on board to lead our Mall store effort. Jeff Skillin, his brother, graduated from UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture and has modernized our all important plant production. Terry and Jeff are sons of John and now lead the business. Back in Falmouth, we salute the efforts of good friends like Larry Leeman, Rick Price, Al Lappin, Jesse O'Brien, Sally Bolstridge, Laurie Jameson and many others who have helped us greatly and who we will always be grateful to. Mary Mixer came to Skillin's via the Maine Mall in 1975 and is still our hardest working person here. Sally Bolstridge (on her second tour of duty), Tim Bate and Sue Destefano are here daily and offer over 70 years of experience between them to help our customers—their dedication and professionalism is an inspiration to us all. Rick Price just completed another year of helping us--he has been part of the family since the 1960's. Equally important are our so called behind the scenes people like Lisa Skillin (Jeff’s wife) and Elaine Warner-Stedt who staff the office, answer the phone, track the inventory and support the retail staff (and many times are right there with the retail staff) in so many ways and capacities. Sally Skillin (John’s wife) just passed away in late 2010 and she was a connection to important people of the past like Frances Olson. We can never thank enough the names I have just named.

Melissa Skillin Smith and Mike Skillin are Dave Skillin's children and we try to help wherever we can! And Dave Skillin is still very active in the business!

John Skillin passed away in 2002 but he has touched so many of us. That same year saw the arrival of the 5th generation, Chad Skillin (Terry's son) who like his grandfather John graduated from UMO; with a degree in landscape design and he has brought a new angle to Skillin's.

In 2003, we combined forces with the Allen Family in Cumberland and now operate Skillin's Cumberland. Phil Allen has passed away but his wife Wendi works with us and she has become a valued and trusted friend. And we have gained so many more friends through our Cumberland store.

We all work hard here at Skillin's and we love it. But without the support of our families at home we could not so easily do our jobs.

We owe a special and biggest thanks to you, our customer. I have listed a lot of names and dates here (and left out names I should mention I am sure—please forgive me) but your loyalty has kept us going over good times and bad. We are looking forward to 2012 and cannot wait to see you.

As this article is being revised for 2012, it seems this country faces huge challenges. We are all a little older, maybe more forgetful but wiser indeed. We may be more humble but we are also more resolute. We have survived wars and depressions; untimely passings and seen new births and lived to thrive in many times. We have emerged from other daunting times and will again. Warmth and joy is here--let's embrace it!

Thank you for being a customer and a friend.

Mike Skillin

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Early February Gardening Tips in Skillin's Country!

Good gardening friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited sent out some neat gardening tips this past week and I thought I would share a couple tips with you all. Plants Unlimited is a great garden center located in Rockport ME and also at Check out their store and their website!

Hammon gives some great advice about Taking Geranium Cuttings:

"Many gardeners keep Geraniums all winter so that they can make cuttings to multiply their plants. Geraniums root readily from cuttings and can be done in late January or February. To take a cutting, remove a 3- to 4-inch section of the plant's stem tip with a sharp knife. Pinch off the leaves from the lower half of the cutting and dip the cut end into a rooting hormone. Rooting hormones are sold in powder or liquid form at Plants Unlimited. (Also at Skillin's Greenhouses!)

Geranium Cuttings--a Great Way to Overwinter Geraniums and to Start a New Cycle of Life!

Stick the cuttings in a moist, porous, well-drained rooting media such as coarse sand, perlite, or vermiculite. (I have had success using Pro Mix as well). Cuttings can be rooted in individual pots or several cuttings can be placed per container. Make sure the container has holes for drainage. Ideally, cuttings root best in a moist, humid environment. This is easy to achieve by securing a clear plastic bag over the cuttings and container. This "mini-greenhouse" should be placed in bright, but indirect light. Check the media occasionally to insure it remains evenly moist.

Rooting normally occurs in 6 to 8 weeks. After roots are approximately 1-inch long, transplant cuttings into a 3- to 4-inch container with a standard well-drained potting soil. Place in a sunny window and water as needed. Pinch shoot tips back to force branching and prevent spindly growth. New plants produced from cuttings should be vigorous and about the same size as most geraniums sold in spring.

Hammon moves on to give us a Few Hosta Facts:

"Hosta leaves come in four main colors: blue, green, yellow, and white. Color combinations are also important. The leaves can have different shapes as well as margin colors different from the center color. The leaves can have wide irregular margins or very distinct but thin margins. The spring color also may not be stable all season long. The leaf surface can be flat, curled, cupped, wavy, contorted, piecrust, or furrowed. Flat surfaces have even and smooth features. A rugose leaf has uneven features such as dimpled, puckered, embossed, ruffled, pleated, wrinkled, and crinkled leaf surfaces. Cupped leaf surfaces are cupped around the margins. Wavy leaves are relatively smooth but wave or undulate along the margins. Contorted leaves are warped, or distorted. Piecrust leaves have closely spaced, distinct, regular, undulations along the margins. Furrowed leaves show the veins sunken or impressed, creating a ribbed effect.

Hosta Blue Cadet--One of Our Favorites!

There has been a great deal of debate over where particular hostas will do best. Pick out a shady spot that is protected from hot afternoon sun. The most common mistake made by newbies (new Hosta lovers) is thinking that all Hosta do best in full shade. This is not the case. Hostas are shade tolerant which means that they will do well in varying degrees of shade, yet still like some sun. If possible, try to avoid full afternoon sun. Some hostas, such as H. plantaginea, will tolerate sunnier conditions. Frequent watering will help a Hosta survive more direct sunlight than it normally would tolerate. "

It has not been really really cold in Skillin's Country but nevertheless the cold weather is when the birds need the rich protein and other nutrients that good quality birds can give them. Our feathered friends are feeding with frequency. They are hungry; so keep your bird feeders full and the food dry. (Birds are turned off by wet food and will not eat it). We have the best in food choices here at Skillin's. I am currently filling my feeders with Wild Delight's Nut and Berry Food. This is a great quality food that features plentiful portions of Nuts and Berrys (awesome food choices for cold weather for the birds) and also is packed with plenty of sunflower. These are the best of food options for our feathered friends in these cold times!

I am not growing grapes in my own yard but I do know that a lot of you fellow gardeners are. Many gardening sites I am checking out remind us that February is the time to prune your vines to no more than about 4 fruiting canes and down to about 10 buds or so. Grapes need to be pruned sharply!

The light is getting to be a much better quality and so far this winter I have not fed my houseplants. That is about to change as I am about to give them a good dosage of organic "Dynamite" a pelletized slow release fertilizer that will give my houseplants a good boost and will help them thrive during our longer and brighter days!

Later on this month will be a great time to prune forsythia, flowering cherry or other flowering branches (look for bud swelling outdoors for better results) and then to bring them indoors for some fantastic flowering. Smash or mash the cut ends and put in water in a vase and soon you will have flower buds and then real flowers! Indoors in the wintertime! It takes the branches some time to activate so you can keep them in a bucket with water in a mudroom or warmer garage before you put them in a vase if you would like!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 2, 2012