As the gardening season gets underway, we always like to involve everyone at the Renee's Garden business office with our trial garden activities by having the group over four regular visits every few weeks. Whether it be sowing seed, weeding, thinning seedlings or just touring the trials of different varieties, it is always something that everyone really enjoys and learns from. It is a great way to reconnect as a group of co-workers and share the garden. Last week, Cheri, Calley, Heidi, Nellie, Kathy, and Rick came to the garden to practice their seed starting skills.
Last season, the groups' main focus was on vegetables, specifically peppers and tomatoes, so everyone could experience the entire process, from sowing seeds to harvest. We started seeds in the greenhouse and I kept the seed flats watered in the until they germinated and ready for the next step.
When the young seedlings were large enough to handle, everyone came back to transplant them from their seedling flats into individual pots. I really like to have people that do not have a ton of experience with growing from seed to transplant tomatoes and peppers because they are resilient and quick to grow.
Once the seedlings grew into larger and stronger plants, and acclimated to the outdoors, we had a planting day to plant the sturdy seedlings out into the beds to grow to maturity. Later everyone harvested the fruit from the plants that they had sown themselves.
This spring, I am changing the focus to flowers. And not just varieties we are evaluating in the trial garden, but flowers for everybody to take home for their own gardens. I chose 6 different easy to grow flowers that would grow in similar conditions, attract pollinators and look nice together: Sunflower ‘Junior’, Salvia ‘Marble Arch’, Cosmos ‘Dancing Petticoats’, Zinnia ‘Persian Carpet’, Dahlia ‘Watercolors’ (a new introduction in 2011), and Nasturtium ‘Vanilla Berry’. I prepared a kit for each person that had the seed packets, "6 pack" containers and sterile soil mix, plant tags for labeling, and a list of simple instructions of how to sow the seed them.
Our first session sowing the flowers went very smoothly, and everyone enjoyed themselves: There’s nothing like the gardeners version of chatting and "relaxing over a couple of 6 packs. " I was really happy to see everyone with their newly sown flats of 6 packs, bringing them into the greenhouse. I will keep them watered and tended until the seedlings have germinated and it is time for the next step.
Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, each person can choose to thin out extra seedlings either by just cutting them off at the base, leaving just one seedling remaining with space to grow, or by dividing the seedlings in each 6 pack, transplanting them into individual pots. This just depends on how many plants each person wants to end up with.
It's normal for beginners to want to keep as many seedlings as they can. I remember a day that I wouldn’t think of thinning plants out either, but wanted to keep them all. I guess I have just developed a little different mentality since growing plants is something that I do every day. Thinning out extra seedlings has become a necessity to avoid being totally overwhelmed by so many plants. Thinning seedlings properly also gives each little young plant the room it really needs to grow to maturity successfully.
When the plants are large enough, we will gradually acclimate them to the outdoors to "harden off " or get accustomed to outdoor conditions for a week or so. After that, each person will pick them home to plant and enjoy. Hopefully I am helping “plant a new seed” in everyone’s confidence in growing flowers.
Every year, the entire Renee’s Garden office staff takes a full day off to attend the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. This annual five day garden lovers' extravaganza is a showcase for the latest ideas in garden design, along with a multitude of shopping opportunities for both plants and gardening supplies. This year I asked everyone to share their their favorite impressions from the show:
Lindsay, Trial Garden Manager: “There was so much to see and many different unique landscape displays. My favorite, from landscape designer Keeyla Meadows, was a vivid display of ornamental and edible plants that integrated a lot of art into the landscape. I liked the custom made pots with mixed plants and stepping stones that looked like large leaves."
I also liked the garden with a sculpture of big giant blue lips with blue rocks, and of course, blue and yellow flowering plants all around. It just made me laugh."
Mila, Trial Garden Ass't Mgr.: “ I noticed a lot of the gardens incorporated edible landscaping into their designs – so many vegetables are so beautiful and ornamental. My favorite this year was not exactly a garden in the traditional sense - it was a small building with the outside walls made of succulents. It was only big enough for a dinning room table, but I want to move in!”
Cheri, Accounting Manger: “ How they can build such elaborate gardens with waterfalls and koi ponds in just 3 days is unbelievable. The New Orleans Bayou looked as though you were walking through the bayou to a little shanty house with a fence made of rebar with plants growing out of it. Upon closer look it was actually sheet music and the plants were growing from the notes. Another favorite garden was comprised of trees, plants and two waterfalls. A walkway of stone with moss growing between the stones separated the two waterfalls. Peeking out between the trees at the top of the larger waterfall was a huge T-Rex. My son would have loved it! Oh, and then there was the shopping…so many booths with garden tools, decorations and plants. My favorite find was the bird feeder made of a mason jar and colored plates. I couldn't leave without it.”
Heidi, Customer Service Rep.: “I loved the display that used living walls to make an outdoor room surrounded by a moat of water which you entered by walking across huge rocks. The texture on the walls (planted with a huge variety of succulents) was as interesting from far away as it was up close. It was a show stopping design.”
Kathy, Sales: “The landscape designers outdid themselves this year. One exhibit combined elements of whimsy from Picasso inspired ceramic art, giant Matisse style ruby red flower stepping stones, complimented by borders of rich, primary color flowers. The inviting exhibits transported you to magical wonderlands like a New Orleans front porch, complete with alligators and jazz, a courtyard in Tuscany with an Italian fountain and hanging flower pots, and a very fragrant, spectacular four season floral display fit for a queen kept bringing me back to enjoy once more."
Nellie, Marketing Ass't.: “ I bought a wonderfully scented Perlagonium plant from Geraniacea, a small nursery in Marin County, California. Their booth at the show was what first drew me in – the retro neon sign and the string lights were too cute to resist. Then, Renee told me I had to go press the leaves of the geraniums, and smell my fingers. She pointed out that each plant’s leaves smelled different from one variety to the next– one like lime, one like potpourri, and even one that smelled like chocolate mint. “When you take one home, you can pluck some of the leaves off – I like the rose-scented ones – and put them in a container of sugar and make shortbreads and cookies out the sugar.” So I found a lemony rose variety to bring back to my sunny backyard back in Santa Cruz.”