Category Archives: Staff News

Cat Proofing the Sign Planter

This year was the worst. Because of the drought the sign planter stayed unplanted from November through January, and the cats noticed, notably Liam. There’s nothing worse than standing out front, helping a customer and seeing your cat, out of the corner of your eye, doing his business…ohhhhhh it was getting more and more agravating.

I didn’t want to plant pansies, simply because I wanted to have as many as possible for our customers. So, when some iceland poppies in cell pack flats became available, I grabbed a flat and planted them in the offending spot.

I wish I could say Liam took the hint. He did not. So, this past Saturday I took matters into my hands again, vowing to do all I could to keep him out. I’d already snatched him up repeatedly, toting him to the back of the greenhouse where the two litter boxes (cleaned religiously for them) resided. He would only hop out, give me a baleful look, and avoid me the rest of the day.

I had figured out my strategy the day before, and, on a sunny but cool Saturday morning, I got to work. Bert gathered pine cones from the side garden (I told him I needed a lot of them.). I pulled some tall, loose stems of the red twig dogwood and cut them to various lengths. There was a pot of washed pea gravel in the greenhouse, and I brought that outside too.

Bert began placing the pine cones between the tiny poppy plants, clustering them in various spots. When he had placed them all, I began arranging the red twig dogwood throughout the planter. This will fix him, I thought. Once the stems were in place, the pea gravel was distributed between the pinecones and branches, and, finally, a few faux fern fiddleheads were placed on either end.

Voila!!! A (hopefully) cat-proof planter. I will report back on how it worked.

By Kris Blevons

 

Kris’ Gardening Tips (From the September 2016 Issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine)

Alabama Gardening Magazine - September 2016 - Kris' GardenHave you seen the September issue of  “Alabama Gardener” magazine? Well, if you haven’t, I’ll just tell you that the Blevons garden is in it!

Now, I’ll be the first to say this is a plant person’s garden. We could use a windfall in cash to take care of issues with retaining walls, steps, and other hardscape details that “finish” a well designed garden.  But I hope the huge, ancient moss-covered rock outcrop makes up for it…and well-placed, interesting plants.

The fun thing about being in the issue of the magazine was that writer Peggy Hill let me contribute my thoughts on gardening tips for readers. Here they are, since the article isn’t online yet and I’d like them available for anyone to read.

    • A great garden with healthy plants begins with the soil. Get a soil test, add amendments, and start a compost pile.
    • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Studies have shown that gardening can be an anti-depressant. It’s good for the body and the mind!
    • Be careful with your plant selections, especially groundcovers. Our mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), planted by the previous owner to prevent water runoff, threatens to overrun nearby plants, and keeping it in check consumes almost as much time as dealing with the neighbor’s bamboo. (!!)
    • Do a little bit in the garden each day. If you see weeds on a walk through the garden, pull as many as you have time for – they multiply fast!
    • Groom and deadhead plants regularly.
    • Find a good independent garden shop and frequent them for healthy plants and advice.Cuphea 'Bat Face' Alyssum, Pentas, White Roof Iris - Kris' Garden
    • Plants are great! Try something new or unknown just for fun, and research everything you can about your new acquisition.
    • It’s okay to start small. That shrub in a one gallon pot will grow just as well as one much larger, and your reward is tending it and seeing it mature. While small shrubs and trees are growing, add annuals to fill space and provide additional color.
  • Kris' GardenProvide for and protect wildlife in the garden.
  • Limit pesticide use as much as possible and, if needed, start with the least toxic option.
  • Educate yourself. There’s so much to learn and more ways than ever to get information. Take classes, consult botanical garden and university websites, follow favorite gardening bloggers, and read books about gardening. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there!
  • Be observant in your own garden space.
  • Gardening takes some work, but try not to let it overwhelm you. Don’t fret if things don’t get done exactly when the books or experts say. You’ll be forgiven. Spend time strolling through the space, enjoying what you’ve accomplished so far.

By Kris Blevons

Our New Work/Design Space – Change is Good!

This Will Be Our New Work Area

Taking the hard goods area apart…

Last year I recounted some of the changes Oak Street Garden Shop has been a part of, or witness to, in the “25 Years, …A Look Back” blog posts, observing that years ago we didn’t have the luxury of camera phones to help us easily document events of importance for our little garden shop in the heart of Crestline Village in Mountain Brook, Alabama. How far technology (and we) have come!

Our website and blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all allow us to be “out there” and connected, for better or worse. So, here’s the story, in almost real time, of the big switcharoo of hard goods area into design area and vice versa.

The New Work Area In Progress

Getting worse before getting better…

Last fall, when Pinkie, Jamie, and Molly brought up the idea of moving our work area from the far end of the greenhouse to behind the cash-out area right up front, I was immediately on board. We’d been idly discussing on and off for about two years how uninviting it looked behind the cash registers.

In a space dark and hard to get to, our sales of fertilizer and other hard goods were steadily declining. Add to that the fact that our present design area was far from customers and we couldn’t always see if people needed help (Owner Billy Angell was never happy about that.), switching the two areas made perfect sense.

Billy's Plan For The New Work Area

The plan…

I knew Billy would be pleasantly surprised that we wanted to make this move, and, after discussing what we would like, he came up with a plan in January, 2016, and we were ready to go.

We all decided that a light color would open up the space and would be a welcome change from the dark brown and eggplant shades. Jamie, Molly, Pinkie, Angie, and Danielle spent countless January hours painting the ceiling structure, posts, and everything in between a lovely blue (When they were finally finished in March, none of them wanted to lay eyes on another paintbrush!).Storage For The New Work Area

Thank goodness that January and February are relatively slow months, because we continued to work in the old design area even as it was being dismantled and packed up. Boxes and boxes of burlap rolls, florist picks and wire, ribbon, scissors, rock and pebbles for terrariums, moss, glue guns and glue sticks, sold tags, Sharpies…it felt like nothing was where it used to be and everything I needed was somewhere else. This obviously went on for weeks as the new work area was slowly transformed from dingy and dark to light and open, becoming a welcoming entrance to the greenhouse.

Potting Bench and Storage - New Work Area

New potting bench and storage…

Bert began building the steps that would display finished arrangements and serve as end caps to the two work tables,  two potting benches to anchor the far ends of the design area, and storage shelves for moss boxes, ribbon and other materials.

Taking A Break From Painting - Molly, Jamie, Danielle

Molly, Jamie, and Danielle taking a break..

Angie, Jamie, and Molly picked up their paintbrushes again. Danielle wasn’t out of the woods on painting either, spending countless days covering the shelves that were moved into the new hard goods area. It was coming together slowly but surely.

Pinkie has great organizational skills, so I asked her to get whatever she thought would work best for our new space. Since we would be right up front, I wanted to be sure all of our work items were organized and easily accessible.

New Work Area - Billy and friend, Pratt

Billy and friend Pratt…

 

 

 

New Work Area - Getting Lights

The electrician adding more light…

She measured all the storage areas, decided what we needed, and made shopping trip after shopping trip to start us out right with a clean, neat, and organized design area. I’ve said over and over that one of  my favorite things are the baskets she found  that an entire box of sheet moss fits in (No more ugly moss boxes everywhere!!) and that slide onto the back shelf within easy reach.

We needed more light, and everyone wanted fans to keep us as cool as possible, especially in the summertime heat. The old fans we were using were barely working, and we wanted something better.

Design Area - Finished

We love our new design area!

Our electrician, Ken, installed new lighting and plugs, and Billy order two brand new wall mounted fans that caused a lot of excitement when they arrived. Finally, with the two fans mounted, our new design area was complete.  What a transformation!

 

The new hard goods area looks so much different  too, in what used to be our work/design area.  It’s now home to all the fertilizer, potting soil, samples of mulch, topsoil, soil conditioner and topsoil, tools, children’s tools, gloves, pruners, organic products, chemicals, mache liners, and some of our light weight pots, and is shaded too. Billy and Pinkie took charge of organizing it, and it’s much more inviting by a country mile!New Hard Goods Area

With the busy spring season upon us, we hope you’ll stop in to browse the nursery for any plants you need for the garden or planters. And, when  you come in the greenhouse, be sure to take a look at our new layout too!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly’s Wedding – One Of Our “Family” Gets Married At Oak Street Garden Shop!

Tithonia - Molly's Wedding

Tithonia and Larkspur…

Molly's Wedding FlowersSaturday, October 10th, 2015, was a magical, musical night. On this cool fall evening, Molly, a member of our Oak Street Garden Shop family for ten years, was married under white twinkling lights, surrounded by a circle of family and friends.

Flowers in Driftwood...

Flowers in Driftwood…

Earlier in the year she’d become engaged to V, aka Chuck. Not long after this, she came to me saying she’d really love to get married at the shop and did I think the owner would be okay with it.

'African Blue' Basil Blooms...

‘African Blue’ Basil Blooms…

 

 

Oh, that would be wonderful, I thought, and, certainly, Billy would say yes. I asked if they had a date in mind. October 10th, she answered. Oh, a fall wedding…how lovely it would be!

Molly's Wedding FlowersOf course, Billy did say yes, after cautioning the shop would be fully stocked since that would be in the middle of the fall pansy season. Well, that would make it even prettier, we thought!Molly's Wedding Flowers

Molly and her mom, Dená, another 10 year employee, made it perfectly clear they didn’t want to cause any trouble or difficulty, and we knew they meant what they said. From my perspective this wedding was a joy from beginning to end.

The cake would be set up here...

The cake would be set up here…

There wasn’t that much for us to do, really.  Molly, her mom, and family took care of the planning, and each guest was asked to bring a dish. It would be a relaxed night, full of music, laughter, and dancing just as Molly wanted.

The bouquet...

The bouquet…

Specifically, Celtic music and Irish dancing.  Molly had  taught Irish dance for a number of years, and many of her dancing friends and students would be at her wedding. So the bands Jasper Coal, Vulcan Eejits, and singer Beth Wetheral provided beautiful, lyrical, and at times, boisterous music amid the many guests.

We worked steadily through the day...

We worked steadily through the day…

Of course, my interest prior to the ceremony was the shop and the flowers and creating a beautiful setting for Molly and V’s nuptials.

Molly's Wedding Flowers Jamie ordered sunflowers, larkspur and other flowers from the wholesale house and brought perennial sunflowers and zinnias from her garden. The Better Late Than Never Garden offered up bright orange tithonia and colorful zinnias, and we cut purple gomphrena and ‘African Blue’ basil blooms from the sign planter in front of the shop.

Setting the flowers out...

Setting the flowers out…

Molly contributed blooming miscanthus, Pinkie cut dahlias and a long section of climbing fern from her home, and I brought leucothoe, sea oats, and golden chamaecyparis out of my yard to use in colorful bouquets we placed in driftwood pieces. These we arranged on the red market tables. They’d be on either side of Molly as she walked down the “aisle”.Molly's Wedding

Jamie designed  two beautiful flowered clips for her hair and a loose bouquet of sunflowers, zinnias, gomphrena, and greenery for her to carry down the aisle.

Molly's Wedding

Cupcakes on handmade wood stands – a wedding gift…

Jamie, Molly, and myself worked steadily most of the day on the flowers, and the rest of the staff of Angie, Pinkie, Danielle, Bert, and Ben really stepped up their game too, taking care of most of the customers since the shop was open until 5:30 on a busy day and the wedding would be at 7:00.   It was truly a group effort.

Finally the time came, guests began to arrive, and we scrambled to get changed from work clothes to something more fitting for a wedding. In the tiny office, with the door screened by a blanket and Danielle helping with her hair and makeup, Molly was transformed from a garden shop worker bee into a beautiful bride.Molly's Wedding

Molly's Wedding Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her wedding dress, in rich brown chiffon, had been hand-sewn by her mother, Dená. And what a beautiful dress! On it she’d painted an entire colorful flower garden along front, complete with several butterflies and bees.

A Painted Garden...

A Painted Garden…

Her inspiration had been the ‘Better Late Than Never’ pollinator garden across the street from the shop, and the exquisite painting incorporated all the flowers in it – sunflowers, tithonia, zinnias, gomphrena, and more. It was truly a work of art, and Molly looked beautiful in it!Molly's Wedding

Molly's WeddingFinally it was time! Everyone gathered around the groom and family members standing under the arch marking the entrance to the nursery.

Then Molly came into view from the greenhouse, entering the circle of friends and relatives standing under hundreds of tiny white lights. There, in a beautiful ceremony incorporating the Irish tying of the knot,  Molly and V took their vows.

Molly's WeddingAfter, as the music played on and laughter filled the air, everyone danced and sang the night away. A beautiful cool evening in October had indeed turned out to be the perfect night for a wedding.

By Kris Blevons

Job Opportunity – Delivery Driver

HELP WANTED 

If you have a strong back and are willing to work weekends, we are looking for a full time delivery driver. Deliveries will be made in our van and may include everything from cast stone planters, pine straw, and bags of mulch to flats of plants and large, very delicate floral arrangements.  The job applicant will be expected to help out in the nursery and greenhouse to maintain plants, clean, water, and assist with anything  that needs to be taken care of  when not on delivery. A good driving record is required. We  are hoping to find someone with a winning personality, a strong work ethic, and who is able and willing to work outside – rain, shine, cold, or heat – beside the rest of us.  This is an entry level position. Starting pay will be discussed on a case by case basis and not over the phone. If  you’re in the Birmingham area, and are looking for a job,  or know someone who is, please apply in person Monday – Friday   10am-4pm  at the address below.

Oak Street Garden Shop     115 Oak St.    Birmingham, Al    35213

For more information:  205-870-7542  – please, NO EMAILS.

Getting To Know Our New Shop Cat, And Saying Goodbye to Gracie…

Gracie...napping in the sun

Gracie…napping in the sun

Gracie has been gone over 4 weeks now. When he found us about 20 years ago, he wouldn’t come near any of us,  keeping  his distance, eyeing us warily, and occasionally venturing close enough to get a pet. It was an ordeal trapping him in order to get him to the vet! (That’s when we found out the cat we’d been calling “Gracie” was actually a boy..)

Gracie & Ozzie...

Gracie & Ozzie…

We worked and worked though, and eventually, as the years went by and employees came and went, he gradually realized we meant him no harm. And, while he still wouldn’t allow many others to pet him, we finally gained his trust and often he’d roll over on his back and offer his tummy for a good pet.

He and Ozzie became friends, hanging out and napping together. Gracie has disappeared before for long stretches at a time, but this feels different. And, knowing his age, our conclusions are the same…we hope he just curled up and went to sleep.

Such a sweet face...

Such a sweet face…

So, obviously, we’ve been missing Gracie, and so has Ozzie. Funny how things work out though.

A week ago Jay heard a cat meowing under the pine straw pallets.  What he discovered was a skinny, very hungry, little gray tabby who was more than happy to be coaxed into the greenhouse and fed. And feed her we did!

Lady TaccaFor now she’s quite content just to be with us in the back of the greenhouse, watching us work and receiving the occasional pet or hug. She’s not sure about Ozzie, greeting him with hisses and growls; but we’re certain they”ll work it out, and we’re giving Ozzie plenty of extra attention!

Lady Tacca

She is a very sweet kitty, and we’ve named her Tacca. Yes, we’ve heard it’s a crazy name, but we kind of like it and have nicknamed her Lady Tacca. (Think Lady Gaga if you’re not sure how to pronounce it.) And, it’s the name of a really cool plant that is also called cat whiskers!

Mind you, Jay is calling her Poodle (?) and our friend Ann Blake is insisting on Lily, so who knows what she’ll end up answering to. The poor thing will probably be endlessly confused! If you’re in the area, stop in and introduce yourself to the newest member of our team. I’ll be putting her in charge of feline cuteness.

The Cats of Oak Street Garden Shop

 

Meet Gracie, shown here doing what he (Yes, Gracie is a guy!) does best, which is sleep the day away. When he’s not sleeping, you might find him walking his domain, or hanging out with his buddy, Ozzie.

Gracie has been with us for many years, and is a pretty old kitty, but you certainly can’t tell it by looking at him! So, if you stop in the shop, look for Gracie and say hello – he might just want a pet.

Our shop cats, Gracie & Ozzie

Our shop cats, Gracie & Ozzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ozzie is Gracie’s buddy, and he is a bit skittish and very shy. But you’ll still spot him stretched out in the sun, (Usually right in the middle of a walkway!) or fast asleep like he is here in the U-Pot-It potting bench.

Ozzie in U-Pot-It bench

Ozzie taking a nap in the U-Pot-It-Bench

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They love the pot of catnip that is, of course, exclusively theirs – it even has a Not For Sale! sign… Both Gracie and Ozzie found us and have made themselves quite at home here. We’re happy that they did, and hope they both are with us for many more years to come, enjoying their “shop cat” lives.