Photo of Hydrangeas


Below zero and with wind-chill warnings, I was up at 5am on Thursday, February 27, and soon swimming at the local Y. Next, I headed to the College Avenue Park and Ride to pick up one of my staff members and head to Chicago and Bailey Nurseries 6th Annual Spring Preview.

It didn’t matter how cold it was outside; inside the Morton Arboretum it was all about spring. What a refreshing topic considering we’re still stuck in a never-ending winter.

We were treated to keynote speaker Timothy Henry of Arete Management who introduced us to the concept of Conscious Capitalism: businesses can be powerful forces for good; their purpose should transcend profit; filling deeper societal purposes can be accomplished without sacrificing productivity, profitability and growth.

According to Natalia Hammil, Brand & Business Development Manager at Bailey Nurseries, we should be thinking conifers, bamboo and grasses for garden containers. Europeans are doing beautiful things with this idea. Apart from the fact that these woody plants look stunning in pots, they’re also low maintenance. Leave them for a week or so as you vacation; when you return, they’re still thriving.

The garden star of the seminar was BloomStruck, Bailey’s newest addition to their Endless Summer collection of reblooming hydrangeas. What caught their breeder’s eye about this plant? The intense bluepurple mophead blooms, the ruby red stems and the plant’s potent reblooming quality. Of course we’re bringing in these beauties, along with several others in the Endless Summer collection: Blushingbride and Twist-n-Shout.

Thanks to everybody at Bailey Nurseries, including Alec Charais, for a great 2014 spring kick-off. Loved the lunch! Love your plants more.

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

Heidi and FritzEnd-of-winter checklist: Reviewing orders, preparing for presentations, brainstorming upcoming greenhouse events, contemplating the addition of an e-commerce shop to our website, finalizing spring fundraising information, checking in with staff and, oh, yeah, getting in some playtime with my favorite four-legged friend, Fritz.

He’s good to have around as we begin the countdown to spring and the craziness it brings. In between all the planning for our 40th Anniversary Party and the Kid’s Day/Train Jamboree, getting ready for my appearances on the Morning Blend, handling the continuous stream of phone calls and e-mail, Fritz has the wonderful ability to pull me away from my tasks at hand and get into the fun of the moment.

If only this winter he could have kept the rabbits away from my viburnum.

No Rabbits Feed Here

It’s hard to begrudge any living creature food when it’s bitter cold outside. At least, that’s what I tell myself should I happen upon vegetation that’s been nibbled or gnawed upon by rabbits and deer. Still, I want my trees and bushes to survive.

If you’ve been experiencing the same problem, it’s not too late to protect your evergreens, roses and fruit trees and shrubs from wildlife. Get the smallest chicken wire you can find. By smallest, I’m referring to the hole size in the mesh. It’s amazing what hungry, skinny rabbits can squeeze through.

Should you need a fairly lengthy roll to wrap around a bush, simply adjoin strips of chicken wire by bending the frayed ends together. Or use zip ties. Be sure to leave space between the foliage and the mesh. Not enough space allows wildlife to still get close enough to feed.

Be sure to look up. Deer feed at head level, so those higher branches need protection, too. Generally, a 5’ high barrier will keep the deer away.

If you have any questions about this post, call me at Shady Lane Greenhouses. Right now, I’m out to feed the birds.

Never Enough Christmas Chaos

Heidi with Special Order

Working on a custom order.

In the weeks prior to Christmas, I’m awake at 5:30 am to run or swim. I arrive at the greenhouse by 8am and look over the day’s outline (it almost never goes according to plan). What we’re doing is a lot of decorating—both inside and outside clients’ homes and businesses.

My staff and I work with numerous clients each and every day and a great deal of juggling goes on. Do we have all the materials we need (trees, garland, bows, ornaments, lights, etc.)?  What vehicles are available?  Who’s available to run special errands? Has Karl finished the made-to-order wreaths and garland? Can I create the custom order arrangements at the greenhouse or should I do them on-site?

Of course, the guts of the project are laid out first. Then, either later that day or the next, we tackle all the details. Driving back to the greenhouse, we enjoy going over the project with one another: funny things that happened, how well it all turned out, notes for last year, that kind of stuff.

I finish around 6:30-7:30 pm each night. If I’m lucky, I’ll stay awake long enough to watch an old holiday movie; one of my favorites is “Christmas in Connecticut.” How long can I keep the pace? Forever, I hope.

National Poinsettia Day

Combo Poinsettia

Combo Poinsettia

Appearing on today’s Morning Blend, I was asked, among many other things, about caring for poinsettias. While the easiest thing to tell someone is “to water them when they’re dry,” there’s really a bit more to it that that. Here are important things to remember:

• Before watering, take the plant out of the tin foil.
• Give the plant a good soaking, but don’t let it sit in water. (That’s why the tin foil comes off.)
• Lift the plant after it’s been watered; feel its weight.
• You can best judge when the poinsettia next needs watering by picking it up and comparing its current weight to what it was with the soil fully moist.
• Keep the poinsettia in bright but indirect light.
• Avoid placing the poinsettia in hot or cold spots.

While on the show, I also mentioned that we’re celebrating National Poinsettia Day on Thursday, December 12. We thought it was high time for us to spotlight this happy little occasion.

Too Busy? Not Me!

At My Christmas Work Bench

At My Christmas Work Bench

I heard the phrase “crazy busy” a while back and use it quite often to describe the level of activity at the greenhouse. It’s exhilarating to have so much to do in such a short period of time, especially around Christmas. Staff and I have several big decorating projects ahead of us this week, loads of trees to deliver and many poinsettias to paint. I can sort it all out while I’m at my workbench putting together wreaths, arrangements, cemetery decorations, centerpieces and swags. It’s fun, REALLY fun, to take greens, bows, berries, pine cones and other “stuff” and fashion them into special orders. I will never become bored doing this; nor will I ever tire of being “crazy busy.”


DSC00060Busy and getting busier. It’s a crazy mix between planting daffodil and tulip bulbs, doing fall clean-up and also hanging wreaths, delivering Christmas trees and decorating for the holidays. In some cases, we’re doing all of this in one day.

In general, people can’t believe that the big season is here already. They are, however, excited about selecting their Christmas trees. I think it has something to do with Thanksgiving being late this year. They want their trees up before that kick-off event of the holiday season. Weekend after Thanksgiving brings us right into December.

I can’t wait for our Carolina Sapphire to come in. They add a different texture to our wreath and bough mixed greens. The Carolina Sapphire has a pretty feathery look as compared to the sharper needles of other firs. I’ll try to get a picture posted of these greens as soon as they arrive; you’ll see what I mean. In the meantime, we just received our delivery of fresh Fraser Fir. That had Greg, Mario and Jesus occupied for several days.

Hope to see you this Saturday for our Christmas Celebration.

I’m Back and I’m Ready

HeidiMy first post on Shady Lane’s new website appears just as I return from a wonderful visit to Germany. Don’t they call that serendipity? Cosmic? Perhaps it’s just happenstance. Well, whatever the case, I’m back home refreshed, energized and ready for Christmas and Winter 2013.

Family and friends were so good to me during my visit. Apart from their wonderful company and great laughs, they humored me as IHeidi Outside GC in Germany visited numerous German greenhouses. The atmosphere found in these garden centers is quite different than most of those in the States. For example, coffee shops are pretty standard in European greenhouses, as is the constant traffic throughout the year. There, gardening does not stop when temperatures drop. It just moves indoors.

Unlike here in the U.S. where many of us toss out in fall what’s been nipped by Jack Frost, Germans, for the most part, nurture their green plants throughout the winter. Brought inside, they’re fertilized, cut back, polished up and carefully tended to. Lots of blooming plants are sold during the winter and brought home for added color (so wonderful in winter). In other words, plant material has a good long life in Germany. Indoor greenery is played with and developed just like outdoor gardens during the summer. I’m willing to bet that getting creative with winter gardening helps keep the darkness away.