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”

Interview with AskGarden

Ask Garden

Apparently DoLeaf is making waves across the Atlantic and striking a chord with our fellow gardeners in Great Britain. Sarah had a chance to speak with Josh of AskGarden about the germination of DoLeaf and what our growth plans are. The obvious question, considering where Josh is based: Would DoLeaf consider expanding to include other countries besides the United States?

Well, we’d love to, but we’re still trying to navigate the byzantine laws and issues with shipping live plants inside the same country. International shipments are an order of magnitude more difficult. Still, one possibility would be for British nurseries to get involved and sell their plants within their own borders. We’d have to see about any currency conversion issues involved with our Amazon Payments backend system, plus upgrade some of our US-only shipping controls, but it’s not totally out of the question. We just need a brave British nursery to help us blaze a trail. If you are or know of such a nursery, please contact us.

DoLeaf reviewed on Urban Gardens

Urban Gardens

We got a nice write up today, over on Urban Gardens. The highlight for me (besides being credited with the idea, when it was actually Sarah’s…) was this quote:

DoLeaf enables the urban gardener, who may live far from the farms, to get out of the big box stores and stay connected to the land by supporting smaller independent retailers and family-owned establishments such as Krieger’s, run by Andy Krieger; The Wilham’s farm, run by the Wilham’s family; and Green Sunshine, run by Hedy and her nephew.

It’s really a pleasure for us on the DoLeaf team to work with passionate small business owners. Family owner/operator nurseries have been a tradition in the United States for many years, and we’re proud to be a part of it.

Thanks to Urban Gardens for the write-up!

DoLeaf gets reviewed by Life on the Balcony

We here at DoLeaf have been huge fans of Fern Richardson and her Life on the  Balcony blog for the past months. Fern offers fantasctic tips and design suggestions for everyday container gardening that anyone can do. Plus her posts really can help young gardeners with limited spaces and budgets. Ryan, Micah and I have all tried our greenthumbs at apartment container gardening over the past decade with varying results.

You can imagine how thrilled and surprised we were when Fern became interested in DoLeaf and posted a review, calling it “A great way to find more interesting plants” and saying how impressed she was with the size of the plants DoLeaf ships.

Thanks Fern for trying out DoLeaf and taking some of DoLeaf’s over 400 mailorder plants into your container garden. She got a Ruby Ficus shipped to her from Studley’s and was quite pleased with the large size and unique leaf color. As the happy owner of a pair of Ruby Rubber Plants myself, I can understand why. Check out her post to see snapshots of her other DoLeaf plants.

To keep up with Fern and learn more about how to garden in your condo,  apartment, dormroom, or house, check out her blog, Facebook page, or Twitter profile.

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!

DoLeaf presents at Startup Riot 2010

Note: This is a bit of a deviation from our usual theme of gardening, so browse around if you’re looking for gardening tips or DoLeaf updates.

DoLeaf was proud to present at Startup Riot 2010, an Atlanta event for showcasing local entrepreneurs and businesses who are getting off the ground. It was a lot of fun, plus we met people from all these great companies:

CitiSync

CitiSync keeps you in sync with all the events and specials in your city making it easy to make plans with friends. They’re getting started in Florida and slowly branching their way out.

Learn it Live

Connect with top experts in many fields. Sid mentioned that perhaps in the future, DoLeaf sellers might want to list themselves as expert botanists on Learn it Live. An interesting idea…

Less Accounting

Dedicated to ending the tyranny of Quickbooks by making accounting simple. These guys were simply hilarious, and well deserving of the prize they won at the end of the day.

Looxii

They’re trying to simplify social media analytics, which is a very hot area right now. They’re also part of Shotput Ventures, a local Atlanta incubator program.

Make Small Talk

Get a quick summary of a subject so you can have a watercooler talk about it. Makes perfect sense to me, since I never watched sports and could never be part of a conversation about “the Big Game.”

Mobilization Labs

Zach of Mobilization Labs was on hand to present about The Wildfire Platform. Wildfire allows you to manage and mobilize a disparate supporter base. A great example is managing a political campaign or a band’s fanbase.

Netparty

Netparty hosts social networking events for young professionals. Network with other business professionals from your area in a local nightclub hotspot.

NinjaPost

NinjaPost, a Shotput Ventures company, is aiming to drag forums and message boards out of the web antiquity bin. They feature real-time AJAX updating, Twitter and WordPress integration, and lots of customization.

oBo Games

With a couple iPhone apps released and a whole slew in development, these guys are looking to storm the App Store.

Rank ‘Em

Allows music enthusiasts to pick out and rank their favorite artists.

Savont

Savont aims to bring ROSCAs to social networks. Borrow from and lend to your friends using a simple, proven system.

TransactionTree

Do you like how an online transaction results in a receipt being emailed to you? What if the same were true for transactions at brick & mortar stores? No more paper receipts to fumble with and lose. Instead, just check your email and it’s there. This was my favorite business idea of Startup Riot, and I can see retailers loving it.

UVestor

The real estate world is a confusing one, and UVestor is looking to clean it up. Their system allows all parties in a real estate transaction to interact through a simple system, doing away with the spaghetti snarl of communication that accompanies real estate.

Viral Prints

Another simple-but-awesome idea, Viral Prints lets you get a YouTube star on a T-shirt. The video makers set up a store and upload the designs. Then, all they have to do is direct their fans to the store from their YouTube channel. Brilliant!

That’s It!

It was a great day, and I really enjoyed meeting everyone. I wish all the other companies the best of luck and look forward to hearing more about them in the future.

If you’d like to read more about Startup Riot, I’d suggest the following:

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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