Get to know Josh from Iowa’s In the Country Garden and Gifts

In the Country Garden and Gifts is one of our favorite nurseries. Not only do they carry great unique hostas (my favorite shade plant) but they’re also located in Eastern Iowa where Ryan and I grew up. Josh specializes in both hostas and water gardens and his family nursery both delivers on plants as well as teaching gardeners of all ages and abilities.

Welcoming you to In the Country Garden and Gifts

When did you start In the Country Garden and Gifts?

We started the business the year I graduated from high school in 1998.

How does your location outside Independence, Iowa influence your nursery and what you grow?

We are rural. We’re actually located on the family farm on a gravel road! The biggest challenge this proves is some difficulty for our local customers to find us.  Most people don’t mind, though, and a trip to In The Country actually becomes a whole fun experience.  A completely different atmosphere and setting than a visit to an every-day garden center.  In addition to the nursery, our personal garden acts as a display garden that customers are welcome to explore.

A water garden at In the Country Garden and Gifts

We began getting serious about mail order about 3 years ago.  We have a loyal local customer base, but the very specialized nature of our business (hostas, water plants, and a handful of misc. uncommon annuals & perennials) captures the interest of a very specialized gardener. Mail order offers a huge market and has grown tremendously for us each year.  Mail order also helps level out some of the seasonal nature of the nursery business…die-hard hosta collectors order the latest and greatest new hostas all winter long for delivery in the spring!

Of course, running a local and mail order nursery brings many challenges, which we continue to figure out along the way!

How many hostas do you carry currently,  and how did your interest in hostas begin?
We currently carry around 350 different varieties.

My interest in hostas began when I was around 10 or 12 and my grandmother began buying hostas for her shaded yard…often buying duplicates for me. Within a few years I had accumulated a modest collection and there was no turning back! My personal hosta collection has grown to over 900 varieties and my brother-in-law and I have started to experiment with hybridizing.  My hosta addiction has resulted in a number of my articles being published in The Hosta Journal (the official publication of the American Hosta Society) and lead me to serve on the American Hosta Society Board of Directors as the Website Editor since 2008.

Bright Lights and Blue Angel hostas at In the Country Garden and Gifts
Currently, what are your favorite hosta cultivars?

My standard answer to this question is “it depends on the day!”  My short list of favorites will always include ‘June’ and ‘Sagae’….both proven performers.  Among the multitude of new introductions, ‘Rhino Hide‘ and ‘Curly Fries‘ are at the top of my mind.  I also think ‘Ripple Effect‘ and ‘Goodness Gracious’ are going to be fantastic hostas. See…it goes on and on!!

Do you have any advice for gardeners with lots of shade in their yards?

Work with it…don’t fight it!  In addition to hostas, there is a huge and fascinating array of shade tollerant perennials out there.  Sure you may have to do some digging to find the nurseries that carry them and they may be a bit more expensive than the standard selection of perennials, but they are out there.  Do your research!

To help do your research, check out The Hostapedia: The Hosta Encyclopedia by Mark R. Zillis.  It’s the most definitive work on hostas in print and is a must for every collector, nurseryman and gardener. The book contains:

  • Over 7400 hostas  listed from A-Z
  • Over 1800 color photos
  • 1120 pages filled with descriptions, facts and stories
  • Complete index of hosta names

Introducing Krieger Greenhouses from Jefferson, Iowa.

1) What makes Krieger Greenhouses unique and worth checking out?
What makes us unique is that we are still family owned and operated. We care about our customers and know that our customer’s success is ultimately what will drive the next generation of our business.

2) When did Krieger Greenhouses begin?
“Growing for you since 1892” is our company motto. We’ve been in business for four generations. It started by my great great German grandfather. His father was a gardener for the King of Prussia.
Funny story – when he emigrated to the us he worked for a beer distributor. He moved west and wound up in Iowa where he worked then owned a beer distributorship as well as a truck garden / greenhouse. Decided that there was a better future in green goods instead of beer. My grandmother swears that she will kill him when she finally meets him at the Pearly Gates. The small beer brand that he gave up on was soon to become Miller!

3) Has Krieger always been a greenhouse?
We did start out as a Truck Garden but then quickly expanded into wholesale and specialty markets.

What’s a truck garden? Commercial vegetable growers were known as Truck Gardeners. They grew veggies in hot houses then moved them into the fields. This crop was harvested and sold to markets and grocery stores via trucks.

4) What kinds of plants do you specialize in?
We are strictly annual growers. Cost efficiencies come from a narrow product line and we pass these cost savings onto our customers.

5) Personally, what’s your favorite plant to grow and why?
My favorite flower or plant is a “Gardens to Go”.

“Gardens to Go” is an idea that we came up with around 10 years ago. Customers were walking out of retail settings with one or two packs of flowers. They would come back later in the afternoon because they had not purchased enough plants to fill out the basket or planter box. Also because they had not planted enough flowers they had to wait for weeks for their flower beds to fill in and start to look good.

A “Garden to Go” features 24 flowers that will fill out 4 hanging baskets, 2 large planter boxes or one 6’*6′ flower bed. You plant more plants, closer together which gives you quicker response time in the garden. Plants fill in faster and look better sooner! A “Garden to Go” is much more cost effective for a customer than purchasing individual packs of flowers.

Another great benefit of the “Garden to Go” is that it uses half the amount of plastic of ordinary flower flats and packs. Less plastic means less plastic to recycle or to fill up your garden shed.

Lastly, the “Garden to Go” is the perfect gift because it comes in a “trendy” gold flat with a convenient carry handle. The package just looks SUPER!

6) Do you have advice for the gardeners out there who grow Krieger’s plants?
Ask questions, learn and most of all TEACH! Tell others about your successes and failures but most of all SHARE your appreciation for cultivating beauty in the outdoors!

Getting Your Store Ready For Spring

Now that spring has arrived across most of the U.S., and customers are heading to the store (and the keyboard) to celebrate, it’s a great time to take a look at your online presence and make sure the welcome mat is laid out and inviting.

To learn the best techniques, we interviewed two of DoLeaf’s premier sellers, Jeffrey of Studley’s Florist and Garden Center, and Hedy of Green Sunshine. They gave us a glimpse into what it takes to run a great online mail-order nursery.

The Interview

1) How do you get your online store ready for a new season and new potential buyers?
Jeffrey: This is my first spring selling on DoLeaf and my biggest concern was my inventory. In early march, I did a thorough inventory of plants I would have available and made sure the quantities were accurately reflected online. That way I wouldn’t oversell an item. This time of year we do a lot of repotting, so many small, shippable plants are bumped up to larger sizes to grow on. I also tied up some loose ends and added a few new plants to my offerings. I had to take some pictures and write descriptions for the new plants. I am also getting in lots of new plant material this time of year. I am excited about a new line of succulents I just got in. Several new echeverias, a delosperma, a crassula and a sedum were all in the mix. I will be adding them as soon as they are ready.

Hedy: I don’t have any special efforts for the new year’s sale. I consider each and every week as the most important. The beginning of the year always poses lots of challenges. Some of the plants went dormant, some got some cold damage. I can’t ship to northern addresses until the weather turns warm enough for the plants to survive the shipping.

During the whole year I try to find new plants for the inventory. I make it a point to sell a few plants that I didn’t have before. Sometimes I pick up a plant that didn’t sell well earlier and give it another chance. I did have good sales of long forgotten plants that I tried again. Plants are like fashion – but as in fashion, you can recycle old ideas.

2) What is the most crucial step in running an effective online store for your garden center?
Jeffrey:Partnering with DoLeaf has allowed me to hand over the marketing of the site to them. That makes my biggest concern pleasing customers with quality plants, something I am used to doing anyway. However, running an online store is very different than managing a retail operation. My biggest challenges have been maintaining proper inventories and quantities online and packaging material properly. The most crucial step in running an effective online store has been to ensure that shipping plants to online customers fits in with our existing business structure and how we get work done. Since we are a florist, we’ve an excellent POS system, a greenhouse with a knowledgeable staff, and a delivery driver who can run packages to the Post Office.
Hedy: The only important thing is to keep the customers happy. They will be, if the plants are a decent size (I don’t sell anything that doesn’t deserve at least a 4″ pot), and the survival rate of the plants is high (my plants are not pushed with extra fertilizer, hormones and other chemicals for picture perfect appearance or fast growth). If the customer writes, I do have to answer within 24 hours. And I am not frugal with words. The customers know that I try to give a thought through answer for his/her particular situation.

Keep your overhead to the minimum. If you get a bad selling season, like the last year was for me, the plants grow only bigger and better. No rent, no salaries – this is practically a backyard nursery. When the customers start to shop again, you are ready.

3) What are some tips on marketing your store and your items to online gardeners?
Jeffrey:I think the most important thing is to be clear to my customers about what they are buying. I strive for great photos that accurately show the plant, a pithy description which includes general care as well as some suggested uses for my plants. I also try to be clear about the plant’s size. I also try to be very reasonably priced.

Hedy: For me the cheapest and most reliable marketing always has been the word of mouth. Happy customers will eventually bring more customers.
Do not expect your business to expand overnight. It takes time to establish a solid good reputation (while mishaps can come any time.) A good feedback system of course helps.
When I post a listing of a plant, I try to get a good picture, possibly my own, not one of those that are all over the internet. A not too professional picture of yours is always better than the ones provided by some vendors, or snatched from the Internet. I try to give a nice and somewhat enthusiastic description. To tell something interesting, not well known about the plant seems to be a good idea.

4) You’ve been shipping plants for awhile now, could you give some advice to newer sellers about shipping plants?

Hedy: My totally favorite topics: Shipping and packaging. There is no excuse for bad packaging. As a mail-order nursery, this makes or brakes your business. In my practice the bare root plants still have some soil around the roots for protection, and are wrapped in moist towel (not just paper towel, but the so called shop towels, that are sold at Home Depot and similar places.) Than the root ball or the pot is secured in plastic bag. Both the potted and bare root plants are wrapped individually in corrugated paper, that gives a fairly good insulation and a good protection against braking or other physical damage. If you recycle paper boxes, it is more acceptable than to have the plants arrive damaged.

Jeffrey: I ship my plants via USPS Priority Mail. I have had only a handful of shipping related concerns, unfortunately, most have been in the past 2 weeks, so I currently feel like a shipping failure. Priority Mail provides very fast service (2-3 days in the continental US), free shipping boxes I can pick up at the PO, and an easily calculable shipping charge. Also, despite all my best wrapping, coddling, foam peanuting and taping, my plants will get damaged in shipping from time to time. My best advice to new sellers would be to take every precaution in wrapping plants, and expect to have to replace some now and again due to factors beyond your control. Also, ship quickly! Often, I have a plant in the mail within an hour or two of the order being received at my shop. That means the plant isn’t in a box longer than it has to be and customers are “Wowed” by fast shipping.

5) Every season it seems there are lists and lists of big gardening trends. Have you noticed any trends among your buyers that have influenced your selection?
Jeffrey:I think that selling plants online defies trends. I can notice local trends easily through contact with my walk-in customers. Trends tend to be regional. Last week I shipped Ohio, New York, Kansas, Wyoming, Florida and Massachusetts. It never fails to boggle my mind what I ship where. Why am I shipping plants to Florida that I just bought as little babies from Florida a few months ago? So far, selling plants online has not been a large enough source of revenue for it to dictate what plants I carry. I will continue to grow a large assortment of foliage plants since I can use them in my florist business. However, I will always carry coffee plants since it has been my number one online seller. I have found that accurately listing a large variety of plants will attract someone’s attention on the internet. Once they find one plant, they may add two or three to their order.

Hedy: Forget about trends. If you can bring in something from the new trend, it is good, if not, it is just as good. There are sometimes very popular plants. I guarantee, that all other nurseries will push the same plant. If you create your own trend, your customers will stay with you. You can’t ignore the customers’ wishes, but a small nursery can’t order all the fashionable plants that will sell this season, and next year there is something else. Most of the plant I buy, I keep selling for several seasons. It is so much better to have a few plants for which you are the only source. (Most likely you have to get some seeds and grow them yourself.)

This is pretty much my entire business model. I treat the plants as my personal collection. Somehow the customers can sense that I do this because I love my plants – the profit is incidental.

And you?

Jeffrey and Hedy are ready for spring, and it sounds like they’re ready for pretty much anything. How about you?

Get to Know Crystal From Gold Hill Plant Farm!

Crystal from Gold Hill Plant Farm in Waverly, Alabama has some of the coolest plants we’ve seen. Her nursery of slipper orchids, goldfish plantsrabbit’s foot fern, string of pearls, inspired us to add more to our own plant collection. Here are a few pictures of the farm and examples of her great selection of unique plants.

Why did you pick the name Gold Hill Plant Farm? What’s the story behind that name?

About 25 years ago we moved to Gold Hill, a beautiful rural area with rolling hills and lots of trees, pastures, deer, and in recent years coyotes and armadillos. The Southern Railroad track crosses the highway and facing west the sign on the tracks says Gold Ridge. The story goes that when the train used to stop here the freight would get mixed up with that from Grove Hill, so the railroad tried to change the name, but it did not stick. Some think that way back there was an unproductive gold mine here, but I think the name derives from the red/gold color of the soil. When I thought about naming my plant business, the name Gold Hill had a good history, and is well known in the area as a beautiful and quiet place.

What about Waverly, Alabama makes it unique?

Gold Hill is a suburb of Waverly. The idea makes me smile, because both places are little more than communities, and not big ones at that. Waverly does have a Post Office, a restaurant (The Yellow Hammer), and a couple of businesses. One is quite famous. Standard Delux ships screen printed T-shirts all over the world. Locally, Waverly has the reputation of doing an admirable balancing act between the old timers and the new group of local artists.

What made you start growing your plants?

My love of plants started early as my family were farmers. Both grandmothers loved houseplants and my mother had potted plants and was interested in them till she died in her 90’s. I say I inherited my love of plants or else it was drilled into me at an early age. I guess it is true that one person’s treasure is another person’s weed. A plant is hardly worth growing if it does not require at least some care. I think this explains why many lovely native plants are largely ignored. It may explain why the preponderance of plants I grow are tropicals.

You carry a lot of tropicals and orchids. How can someone in a colder growing zone enjoy these plants?

I am continually trying  out greenhouse plants to see if they can make it outdoors in my zone 8 garden. Almost everybody can devote a little space on a window sill or by a glass door to grow a plant or two and plants pull more than their weight in decorating and cheerfulness.  A  rosary vine is an uncommon and easy to care for plant that anyone can grow. Rex begonias are also stunning , but do require a little more care than a rosary vine. A pencil plant can become an indoor shrub  fairly quickly, and is also a departure from the ordinary houseplant.

When we saw your first plant, the Night Blooming Cereus, we knew Gold Hill would be special. Tell us more about having a party to celebrate them.

I frequently call friends to come over when my night cereus is going to bloom. I can tell because the flowers turn up with a crook in the blossom the day they will bloom that night. I have had amateur photographers come and friends who are interested in plants or who want someplace to go for an evening. We sit on the porch and listen to the crickets and cicadas and revel in creation and our place in it. I have a blog where I write about plants and also occasionally throw in some personal philosophy and reminisces.

Meet Kathleen from Tulip Tree Hill Farm

Kathleen and her brother as children with the animals.

Tulip Tree Hill Farm is a tiny little farm in Southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania specializing in heirloom vegetable and herb seedlings. Their selection is perfect for gardeners who enjoy growing food for the table that has been served in American homes for generations Tulip Tree Hill specializes in not your run-of-the-mill varieties. Instead, they offer many unique heirlooms including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, and melons. They also raise interesting and unusual seedlings for the adventurous gardener: artichokes, licorice, roselle, and even cotton, not to mention flowering beauties like German Chamomile and Munstead Lavender.

With such an extraordinary selection, we wanted to know more about Tulip Tree Hill and Kathleen, the wonderful grower behind these great heirloom varieties.

1) What’s this history behind Tulip Tree Hill, and how did you come up with such a beautiful name for your farm?

Five years ago I purchased this property from my parents who were ready to downsize after living here for nearly thirty years. The name of the farm and studio stems from the numerous Tulip Poplars in the woods at the back of the property. Also, the farm sits at the top of a hill which is one of the high points in the area.

2) How does being in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania influence what you grow and raise?

Lancaster County is blessed by some of the richest farmland around and has a long farming history. Southern Lancaster County, especially, is still largely composed of small family farms, although Tulip Tree Hill is likely one of the smallest!

3) When did you start specializing in heirloom vegetable and herb seedlings, and what made you turn to growing such unique heirlooms plants?

2009 was my first real foray into growing heirloom vegetable and herb seedlings. While there are many greenhouses locally, most sell bedding flowers and perennials and it is almost impossible to find heirloom and unusual vegetable seedlings. Since my own interest lies in unique and unusual varieties, I saw a niche that had yet to be truly filled. So 2009 became a year of planning learning, and building the greenhouse.

This year sees not only the beginning of selling heirlooms, but also of the market garden. The very same varieties I’m selling as seedlings will also be put in the ground here to be nurtured, raised, harvested, and sold at local growers markets.

4) Which heirlooms are are you favorites to grow and eat?

Tomatoes have to be at or near the top of the list because of the many sizes, shapes, and colors available. But I also adore peppers and enjoy making hot sauces for my own kitchen as well as gift-giving. Eggplants also come in a surprising variety of colors and I’m looking forward to the reactions I’ll get with them at market. Something new in my kitchen last year was fried squash blossoms – delicious!

5) What heirlooms would you recommend to someone just starting out with their own vegetable garden?

I’d say don’t try to fight your local weather, but work with it. Someone gardening in a warm, sunny area would do well with tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, while a gardener in a cool, wet area might have better luck with broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. But having said that, I have to admit I’ve never let that stop me! Last year, for instance, I tried growing cotton here in zone 6, just for fun. It was the coldest, wettest summer I can remember and even so, I still got a couple of cotton bolls. My best advice is to experiment, have fun, and see what happens!

6) Does Tulip Tree Hill grow anything besides plants?

Tulip Tree Hill is also home to Babydoll sheep, Shetland sheep, American Buff geese, and a variety of bantam chickens. We have a limited number of their offspring available for sale here on the farm in the spring (we don’t ship animals). Keeping me company amongst all of this are my three standard schnauzers, Big, Dora, and Ava.

The resident sheep of Tulip Tree Hill

7) Beyond growing plants, you’re also a very accomplished artist. How do you see Tulip Tree Hill influencing your art and your art influencing your outdoor surroundings?

Where I live definitely influences my art. The natural world, with it’s flora and fauna is where I draw my inspiration from. The cawing of crows in the woodland, a quiet dewey morning, and seeing the sheep grazing at twilight all fill up my soul.

Kathleen Stoltzfus, “Migration Song”

Kathleen Stoltzfus, “Wonder of Flight”

Discover Your Pennsylvania Pride!

Pennsylvania Pride, an extraordinarily unique farm near Leesport, PA, provides a unique selection of over 200 trees including dogwoods, willows, cedars, and cypress. Also, they really stand by their trees, producing healthy plants and a wealth of knowledge fit for any gardener or landscaper. We’ve been enamored with their Japanese Dogwood, Niobe Gold Weeping Willow, and Dawn Redwood. We found that their story is every bit as unique as their selection. Here’s more about Pennsylvania Pride.

1) What makes Pennsylvania Pride worth checking out?
Pennsylvania Pride is unique because through this premier brand we are now able to take the trees we grow directly to the homeowner. Pennsylvania Pride also provides assistance for years to come through our grower team on the nursery. We are able to offer advice and tips for all those who choose the brand through our support website www.pennsylvaniapride.com. In addition, Pennsylvania Pride grows over 200 types of trees. We will be making more and more trees available as the season goes so it is definitely worth checking out regularly.

2) When did you start Pennsylvania Pride and why?
We started the Pennsylvania Pride brand in 1995 when we realized we needed to have the ability to get in touch with the homeowner. We needed to find a way to differentiate our trees from other generic growers for the benefit of our customers. All growers are not the same and all methods of growing are not the same. Our production methods are focused on growing trees that perform vigorously, not just survive. We understand the pain in failure for our customers and we work hard to avoid any plant loss. We also believe more trees are needed and with Pennsylvania Pride we can promote the benefits of trees.

Leesport's own Pennsylvania Pride farm.

3) You have a great selection of dogwoods. Why did you decide to start growing dogwoods and how many varieties do you grow?
Besides Dogwood being one of our favorite trees it is also one of the best well-known trees that does so much for the home landscape. We wanted to produce a ‘northern’ grown Dogwood that was suited to the northern climates planting season. Our nursery is about as far north as you can be to grow Dogwood successfully. We currently grow twelve selections and are testing three or four more at any one time. Our production is limited on this difficult crop but we expect to add more selections going forward.

4) Personally, what is your favorite tree that Pennsylvania Pride grows?

Wow, that’s a tough question! We love trees, all kinds and we see the value in all. There just isn’t a bad tree when grown well and planted well. If we have to choose….Redbud, a native tree that is one of the earliest flowering trees in spring. We grow five selections of redbud and hope to have these available soon. Redbuds can be grown successfully in almost any condition and they perform very well. They range from purple-leafed types, Purple, Pink and White flowered selections and weeping forms.

5) Are their any trees that you’ve grown that have surprised you, either with their foliage or their hardiness?
You know we have been surprised by Cryptomeria ‘Yoshino’, what a beautiful underused evergreen tree. Fast growing, clean and beautiful foliage. We cannot believe it is not used more, the tree just isn’t that well known, even by Garden Centers. Yoshino Cryptomeria is a great replacement for traditional overbearing evergreens and is much more suited to the smaller yard. If you have a spot, plant one of these. I love mine at home and out of the 120 different trees I have in my yard. It is my favorite!

6) Do you have advice for the gardeners out there who would like to get a dogwood but don’t know where to start?
Listen, Dogwoods are traditionally hard to get going. They are slow growers and can struggle in the first couple of years. Pennsylvania Pride specializes in Dogwood and for us to be successful, our customers have to be successful so all we do is focused on the success of our trees. Our trees are container grown and well rooted, thus avoiding the burden of field harvest and reducing almost totally the transplant shock. Not only that, but because we grow in containers you can expect real growth in the first year and we can almost guarantee blooms in the second year!

7) Are there any new tree species, varieties or cultivars that we should keep an eye out for at your farm?
I am excited about this question! We recently have applied for patent on ‘Pink Heartbreaker’ Weeping Redbud and we expect to be able to make available very soon to all!. This unique weeping form of Redbud was discovered on the nursery in 2002 and has proven to be a great tree. We are currently granting licenses to grow this tree around the world!

Other new selections we are growing include specialty type evergreens in
weeping forms and many underused trees for the home like Frankinia, Stewartia and some really cool variegated Sweetgums. While we have a limited offering today, we will be adding to our list on a regular basis. Not all Trees are available for shipping at all times so our product list will be changing monthly anyway.

Pennsylvania Pride is always worth coming back to. The farm has an ever-growing and changing selection of great trees that will bring rare and unique specimens to your region and your yard!

Get to know Big John from Oregon’s Big John’s Garden

Big John’s Garden near Klamath Falls, Oregon produces high quality certified organic garlic and shallot planting stock and is able to provide them in good quantities. Big John’s Garden is a nationally known resource for organic garlic growing, and the farm has been featured in Sunset and Domino magazines. Big John supplies Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and community gardens with five pound orders of high-quality garlic and shallots, but can also work with backyard gardener on smaller orders.

After seeing his great selection, we became very interested in Big John’s story and products. Here are our six questions for Big John.


1) What makes Big John’s Garden unique and worth checking out?

We are focused on garlic and shallots. Our quality and service are excellent and we can supply large quantities.

2) When did you start your farm? Have you always been organic?
We started the farm in 1969 and began certified organic operation 2005.

3) Why did you decide to grow shallots and garlic?
These plants excel in our area of Oregon. The temperate climate and soil types are just right for them to thrive.

4) Personally, what’s your favorite plant to grow and why?
I like to grow any type of garlic. [Big John even grows heirloom varieties like the Nootka Rose and the Lorz Italian.) Garlic is an amazing plant that can withstand just about anything Mother Nature throws at it. It’s very easy and satisfying to grow.

5) Can you share any general tips to growing good garlic and shallots?
I am lucky in that I do not have to add inputs to increase fertility. I do cover-cropping with rye, tricale, vetch and (experimentally last year) buckwheat. I am a firm believer in mulch and use about 1 inch of ground-up pasture hay. Lots of different types will work, just be careful to not have any seeds! I harvest when the bottom 4 leaves are seriously dried and browned out. It is better to get it on the slightly early side than on the late side. Full sun is a requirement and try to plant in such a way as there will never be any standing water (supersaturated soil) for any length of time. For the small grower, raised beds are great. For the larger grower, chiseling (sub-soiling) is very important. Garlic roots extend (and want to extend) down a lot farther than most people realize… I’ve seen them go down 10-12 inches.

6) Do you have specific advice for the growers out there who buy shallots or garlic from Big John’s Garden?
Order early to insure the quantities you want… we ship first come, first served.

Hardy Banana… meet January. January… please be nice.

I’ve never had the guts to get a banana tree. Our indoor and outdoor space is shady and limited, and this tropical plant never seemed like a good idea in places with snow. A recent trip to New Orleans seduced me into rethinking my no-banana yard. There are plenty of fabulous plants in the (surprise!) Garden District, including banana trees flush with tiny yellow-green fruit. I’m still not sure if I’m ready for a Siam Ruby , Muse Bordelon or Praying Hands banana tree, but I broke down and got a lovely Hardy Banana a couple days ago .

Banana Tree in the New Orleans Garden District. From Wikimedia Commons.

The ‘Musa Basajoo’ or Hardy Banana is one of the most cold-hardy bananas around. While the fruit’s not edible, the foliage is beautiful ( rich green  leaves that start out as almost chartruse). Hardy Bananas are cold hardy as far up as Ohio, and they can grow up to twelve FEET in a single season.  I’m planting mine in an oversized container along with some colorful trailing groundcover.  Thanks Terregan Nurseries and NOLA for the push to banana!

A River Runs Through It

… and “it” is our street. Every time we get a solid rainstorm in Atlanta, we generally have about four feet of rain running down each side of the street. Today’s rain  was so bad, that the entire road became a fast moving river for about three hours.  Micah filmed a squirrel hopping through the torrent and safely into the neighbors lawn. Another squirrel has apparently taken shelter under our house and is now bumping against our kitchen floor. Bon voyage, squirrel… and safe passage.  Here are a couple pictures of today’s river.

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Inside DoLeaf: Now With More Plants

The DoLeaf team spends a lot of time doing two things: working on DoLeaf and working with plants. Since it’s the middle of winter all our backyards are pretty neglected, but our indoor plantings are going strong. Ryan’s Kansas City office looks like a Midwest jungle after he brought in his container plants for winter and added a banana tree, and Micah and my office is getting greener and greener with each DoLeaf purchase.

In December I bought two ruby rubber trees from Studley’s to give as a Christmas present. My laziness and the giftee’s home renovation left me with the two plants, which was fine with Micah, a lover of all things ficus. So, three weeks after arriving at our door, I give you our new rubber trees. Micah potted each and put them on our desks. They work pretty well with the 1920s inspired decor.

Side by Side: Micah's desk (right), Sarah's desk (left)