Air Plants (Tillandsia) – What You Need To Know To Grow Them!

Tillandsia or air plants, are very cool indoor plants and the largest genus in the bromeliad family. They’re considered epiphytes, absorbing moisture and nutrients through the air, using plants or other structures as support.image

Like other bromeliads, their life cycle ends after blooming, but new plants, called pups, form around the base of the plant. They do not require soil to live – the roots help them to attach to a host, whether it be on a plant, tree or piece of wood. They are not parasitic, meaning they won’t harm the host plant, rather, they use it as a support, taking nutrients from the air and water you supply.
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hanging air plants...

hanging air plants…

air plants - we think they will look great attached to the bark pieces here!

air plants – we think they will look great attached to the bark pieces here!

There are tillandsias with rather stiff, gray or faded leaves and those with softer, greener foliage. As a rule, the stiffer leaved, gray ones will need more light but less water – and those with softer, greener leaves tolerate lower light levels but appreciate more moisture.

look at the contrast in colors here!

look at the contrast in colors here!

In their native habitat, tillandsias live on trees, so they get light, but it’s diffused through the canopy. Try to emulate this in your home, giving them strong, but indirect light (not right in a window, as that could burn the foliage and cause it to dry out faster too) or place them outside through the summer, in a shady spot, or at most a location with morning sun and dappled light.

As noted, the gray leaved tillandsias need less water than the softer leaved green ones but when you water ((roughly once a week), take them to your sink and water thoroughly, shake the excess moisture off (you don’t want water ever sitting in their base) and return them to their home. They need to dry out between watering. If they get too dry, they’ll have curled or rolled leaves that look shriveled – you don’t want them to get to that point!image

If you display them outside, bring them indoors for the winter when temps drop below 40 degrees. Don’t worry about fertilizing – they are susceptible to over feeding – best to leave well enough alone!

Stop in and take a look at these cool plants – we’re sure you can find somewhere to try one or two – they’re too fun not to!

 

By Kris Blevons

 

 

Bromeliads – Colorful And Easy Tropicals For Your Home…

IMG1376You’re no doubt familiar with the brightly colored bracts and strap-like leaves of bromeliads. Extremely long lasting and colorful alternatives to orchids and other flowers,  they can’t be beat for a touch of tropical beauty and their ease of care in our homes and offices.

bromeliads brighten the greenhouse...

bromeliads brighten the greenhouse…

 

 

 

 

These bright plants are distinguished by their rosettes of leaves – the most famous of the bromeliads is the pineapple. Bromeliads can be found growing in the wild from Florida and the West Indies to Mexico, through Central and South America. They’ve adapted to a wide range of growing conditions, though, from tropical rainforests to elevations as high as 11,500 feet in the Andes Mountains.

cryptanthus and succulents...

cryptanthus and succulents…

 

 

The majority of bromeliads are epiphytic, meaning they grow on trees but don’t take nutrients from the tree itself, rather from the moisture in the air – the tree is just a means of support. Another member of the bromeliad family we carry is cryptanthus.  It is a terrestrial, growing on barren, rocky soil.  Cryptanthus are found in the cloud forests of Ecuador, surviving on the moisture from the clouds that envelope them. The dark leaved and  silver/gray  bromeliad-like plant we’ve had all summer is a cryptanthus called ‘Black Mystic’, and it is beautiful and easy to grow!

bromeliads make great gifts...

bromeliads make great gifts…

 

It’s fascinating to find out the native habitat of many of the plants we use in our homes and offices – but understanding where these plants come from originally can also help us better understand how to take care of them.

 

 

 

 

bromeliads, cryptanthus and succulents in a pretty blue bowl...

bromeliads, cryptanthus and succulents in a pretty blue bowl…

 

We hose down our  bromeliads in the greenhouse when they’re very dry… if you’d like to more closely mimic the natural conditions of the bromeliad in your home (minus the hose!), let tap water sit for a few days so the chlorine and fluorine dissipate. Pour into the “cup” of the bromeliad and freshen the water periodically, allowing  the water to flow over the cup and into the soil. Now that you understand  the natural growth of  bromeliads, you can see why it’s important not to overwater them.

Allow them bright light inside or place them outside on a patio or porch through the summer to  enjoy these bright beauties!

 

Container Gardening Design Tips

Urn Planted for SummerSpring is for planting in the garden and in pots. Flowers, herbs, perennials, shrubs, and vegetables are all players in the annual game of  “What will grow in this spot?” or “What can I plant in this pot?”.

Summer Container GardenDyron's Urn - Summer 2015

 

 

 

Now that summer is here though, the pace is slower with fewer questions as more people slowly stroll the nursery for pleasure,  picking up the odd plant here and there or gathering more varied selections for filling in garden spaces that need extra color.Summer Container Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheelbarrow - Summer PlantingMany of them come to see the planters we’ve put together, getting ideas for extra pots or to make note of a different combination of plants they might not have thought of.Hanging Basket Combination for Sun

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoy this time too (Since we’re all pretty much plantaholics!) and look on it as our play time with plantings, a reward for making it through another hectic spring season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herb Box with VincaSummer Container Garden

 

 

 

 

So, while our neatly lined tables are still filled with a good assortment of varied plants, you’ll also find our container plantings in various spots throughout the nursery too.

 

 

 

Summer Container Garden

 

Some find their way onto our Facebook and Instagram pages, others make their way to new homes. Wherever they end up we hope they give you as much pleasure as they’ve given us creating them.Dwarf Evergreen Planters

Dyron's Planter Tubs - May 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Container Gardening Tips:

Know your light. Plants that want sun won’t perform well in shade and vice versa.

If you want a pot filled only with flowers, choose blooms with different shapes for added interest. An example: A spiky salvia, rounded blooms of zinnias, flatter blooms of lantana.

Make it even more interesting and add a foliage for additional texture or color. Begin by choosing it, then add some flowers to compliment the color or shape of the leaves. An example: A spiky grass, a round pentas, an airy euphorbia, a trailing vinca.

Bigger planters call for bigger plants. Use at least one eye catcher or “thriller”. Add intermediate or “filler” plants, then complete the picture with a trailing or “spiller” selection. This is the tried and true Thriller, Filler, Spiller recipe. It never fails.  An example:  A black elephant ear (thriller), sunpatiens (filler), scaevola (spiller).

Think about the setting the planter is in. What color is your house? What trees and shrubs will be in bloom at various times? Do you entertain at night? What are your favorite colors? Are you there to maintain and water regularly?

No matter how small your planting starts out,  with proper care it may  grow  to enormous proportions. Be prepared to deadhead faded blooms at least weekly and clip back your planting as needed.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

Don’t Stress If A Plant Is An Ugly Duckling – Imperfection Can Be Beautiful Too!

Oak treeI have a tiny oak tree out back that used to be on its way to attaining an impressive size – until Hurricane Ivan hit and toppled a huge hickory tree onto it, effectively topping it.

I know I should have taken it down when the tree company came to clear out the downed hickory, but I couldn’t do it. I liked that little oak, and over time it’s become my crazy tiny oak tree up in my rock outcrop – a hurricane survivor.

I was working up around that oak this morning, cutting a few dead branches out of it and wondering at its tenacity. Below it, also improbably growing in the rock outcrop, is a shrub called Thujopsis dolobrata – a prized specimen I planted years ago.Thujopsis dolobrata

Unfortunately the Thujopsis started dying one summer, a victim to the previous fall’s drought. I watched anxiously as branch after branch eventually turned brown and died.

Unbelievably, about a third rallied and is still alive. I cut out the dead and now have half a shrub under my dwarfed oak tree. What a pair of misfits in the garden!

My imperfect garden might not be to everyone’s taste; but I’d rather have a little imperfection than everything being “just so”.  A friend in the horticulture profession said it well:

Imperfect Leaf“Plants are living things like humans. They need water and sun and some need food and each grow in different ways. That yellow leaf at the bottom of the dracaena doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or that the plant is dying – it’s just a natural part of the life cycle. People need to understand that imperfect is beautiful.”

My physically imperfect tree and shrub were caused by events out of my control – a hurricane and a drought. Other imperfections are simply part of a plant’s life cycle, yellowing leaves, and damage caused by insects or animals.

While it’s important to maintain a healthy landscape, it’s also important to know when to relax and appreciate that some imperfection is normal and not always cause for immediate alarm.

With proper watering, fertilizing, pruning and general maintenance, your plants will be better prepared to weather anything nature throws at them – and you will too.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

One April Saturday

It was a spring Saturday in April, and the day before Easter, a steady, busy day with all sorts of customers, everyone in good spirits. There were young couples with children, husbands and wives out and about on the holiday weekend getting plants for projects, an elderly man with two relatives helping him select his purchases – he used to come in regularly, but now we see him only on holidays. We got him a chair and he sat comfortably while his family brought him plants to look at and choose from.April Easter

More and more people came and went, some with one or two things, others with many flats and pots set out by their cars, their children clamoring, wanting to know where the cats were so they could pet them.

I noticed two women, the older one in her 70’s with who I assumed was her daughter. They kept a bit to themselves, walking and looking. I asked if they were finding what they needed, and the older woman said “Yes,” and turned away, so I left them to look on their own. A while later I checked on the daughter, and she pulled out her phone to show me a picture of the area they were trying to find some plants for, saying they lived 3 hours south. She also told me her brother had passed away almost two weeks before and she thought the trip up to Birmingham to buy plants would be good for both of them.

I looked at the picture, an overhead shot from at least a third floor window onto a formal garden below. “Oh, how beautiful!” I said. “The center area used to be a pool,” the daughter explained, “and we want something for the large planter in the center where it used to be and some plants to fill in the quadrants around it.” By this time her mother had seen us chatting and joined us. She too told me that they were from a few hours south, not mentioning the loss of her son. But knowing that this was not a simple road trip to buy plants but something they’d decided to do as an antidote to their grief felt very special.

I chatted with them, helping them choose interesting and heat tolerant plants that would work in their new space. “Do you know what gomphrena is?” I asked. When I found out they didn’t, I said, “Oh, it’s a tough, tough plant, one of my absolute favorites, and we have a special one that everyone loves. It’s a carmine pink, and so beautiful! It is a bit of an ugly duckling in a pot, but once it’s planted and growing I think you’ll love it too, and it will hold up through the heat of summer.”

By the time we were finished, with their selection of plants by the car, they were both visibly more relaxed and smiling. I feel certain the daughter probably wondered why she’d told me about the recent death of her brother, but I’m so glad she did. Knowing of their grief, of their special mother daughter trip together, helped me help them.

And I hope their grief was eased, even for just a little while, at a bustling garden shop on a spring Saturday in April.

By Kris Blevons 

 

New To Houseplants? Let Us Help!

If you’re of a certain age, you well remember when houseplants were a mainstay in most houses. The home I grew up in in the 1970’s was filled with plants.

My mother tended them, each week working her way through the house with her watering can and sometimes a sponge to wipe dusty leaves.

I remember floor-size planters and smaller pots grouped together on end tables and beautiful green and variegated leaves of varied shapes and sizes. If you looked up, macrame hangers supported pretty pots filled with hoyas, pothos, creeping fig, and ivy, the trailing vines winding their way here and there.

Today you can Google houseplants or look on Instagram and many similar images appear. Houseplants are making a comeback. Hallelujah, it’s about time!  Whether you’re a novice  with a few small pots on a windowsill in your first apartment or live in a downtown loft and need something bigger, there really is a houseplant for everyone.

Theories abound as to why houseplants are making such a comeback. Some say it’s that younger people need something to nurture. Others say it’s cyclical, and it was just time for them to reappear. Still others say it’s because the world is in such turmoil that  people are turning to their homes for comfort. Whatever the case, plants are a warm and lovely addition to any indoor space.

Plants help purify the air too. There are lists of those that researchers have deemed the most helpful for this. They include many old favorites like spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), snake plant (sanseveria), pothos (Epipremnum), peace lily (Spathiphyllum), ivy (Hedera), parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), aloe, dracaena, Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), rubber plant (ficus robusta), and nephthytis (Syngonium).

Of course this listing is just the tip of the houseplant iceberg. A few other plants pictured here include the puckered leaved peperomias, hardy Norfolk Island pines, alocasias, succulent jade plants, philodendrons, and, in the background one of our greenhouse “mascots”, a very large Monstera deliciosa, filling out its new pot. We love our plants too!

Monstera deliciosa

 

 

Some basic houseplant info: Light is important. Pay attention to how the sun moves through your home. Is your landscape outside filled with trees that block the light coming in on certain sides? Are there buildings that shade even western or south facing windows? Is your home bright and filled with windows that are unobstructed, or does it feel dark even on sunny days? Plants that don’t have enough light tend to “stretch”, leaning toward the sun and may be pale even with diligent fertilizing.

Assorted pothos

Plants that tolerate low light levels are the workhorses of the houseplant world. They’re also some of the best plants for beginners. Here are a few to try:

Pothos are virtually indestructible in low light and also prefer to be on the dry side. Don’t overwater and they’ll live happily in your home. Sanseveria thrive in bright light but also will add a lovely vertical accent in low light spots too. Philodendrons, spider plants, prayer plants, many ferns, and the indestructible ZZ plant are other good choices.

Fiddleleaf Fig Tree

If you have bright, light flooded rooms with plenty of windows, the choices widen. Peace lilies prefer this  light, though they’ll tolerate lower light levels too. Ficus, including ficus lyrata, the popular fiddle leaf fig, aralia, jade plants and other succulents, croton, ponytail palm, hoyas, grape ivy and aloe vera need the brightest light you can provide.

Anthurium

If you’re not sure you have enough light for those but want to try something other than the low-light plants above, Chinese evergreens, parlor palmsanthurium, bromeliads, ivy, creeping fig, Schefflera arboricola, fittonia, or peperomia are worth trying.

Each plant will have specific water requirements, and I remember my mom checking hers each week, watering if it was needed or simply “grooming”, removing yellow or dead leaves and clipping wayward stems.

Sanseveria

 

 

The amount and frequency of water depend on the brightness of the light, how warm or cool the room is, and the type of plant. Moisture meters can be helpful to determine the moisture in a planter, especially if they’re large. With so much information at our fingertips, researching individual plants is easy; so learn as much as you can about your new purchase to give it the proper care.

Healthy plants need food, and fertilizing should be done at least every two weeks during the growing season, spring through summer, and monthly in the winter when growth slows.

Cissus, Grape Ivy

Even with the best conditions, indoor plants may be susceptible to insect damage.  These pests might include cottony-looking mealy bugs that hide in leaf axils or along stems, spider mites (Common  when humidity levels are low and, in advanced infestations, even showing webbing on plants.), scale (Usually seen as dark bumps on stems and the underside of leaves.), and aphids, soft bodied insects typically found on tender new growth.

If you tend your plants weekly you should spot insect problems early on when they’re more easily managed with a natural pyrethrum or soap spray. There are also systemic granular insecticides that can be sprinkled onto the soil. Always read the labels before using.

 

Houseplants not only look good and purify our indoor air, they add to our interior style, give us something to care for, and bring a little of the outside in. So, with the “comeback” of the houseplant, we say, “Cheers!”

Plants to use with caution around children and pets: Dieffenbachia, Easter lily (very toxic to cats), and ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamifolia)

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

Collage

Retailer Of The Year Customer Choice Contest

Greenhouse - SummerThis past spring Oak Street Garden Shop was nominated by the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce to participate in the 2021 Alabama Retailer of the Year Award.

Part of the process is a separate (And fun!) award, the Customer Choice Award, that YOU can participate in!

We are providing the link to the Alabama Retail Association, the sponsor, so that you can easily click on it and vote for us in the medium category if you are inclined!

Voting will continue through Monday, August 23rd, 2021. Click HERE to vote!

In addition to voting there you can also vote for us on Facebook by going to our Facebook page where we’ve shared the collage you see here. Simply click on the collage and “like” it to give us one vote or “heart” us for two votes! Click HERE to vote on FaceBook too!

Thank you! We know we wouldn’t be here without you!

 

Native Azaleas and Hybrid Aromi Deciduous Azaleas Add Blooms, Scent, and Structure to the Garden

Spring Garden

March garden scene…

March and April are the months in the south that finally drive winter out for good, after the usual roller coaster rides with temperatures rising then falling, and multiple cycles of freezing and thawing.

Though our last average frost isn’t until mid-April, this year the fat buds of cherry trees and crabapples, spiraea, forsythia, and many more have burst into fragrant, beautiful bloom, and neighborhoods are awash in color.

Snowball Viburnum buds

Snowball viburnums blooming in March

 

 

 

Favorite shrubs of mine that add to the spring symphony are our native deciduous azaleas and the hybrids that have come along in recent years.

We have a selection available now, and, as they’re considered by many to be some of our most beautiful flowering shrubs, you might like to add one or more to your garden this year.

 

Hummingbird Moth on Deciduous Azalea

Hummingbird moth…

Large, fragrant, honeysuckle like blooms open gradually, offering nectar to swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths. It’s a delight to catch these pollinators “working” the blossoms!

 

 

 

 

 

A mistake many people make when deciding where to put their deciduous azalea is placing it in too much shade.

 

They do need some sun to bloom well, so be sure to think about how much shade mature trees cast in your landscape when considering your placement.Hybrid Deciduous Azalea

Once you’ve decided on your spot, don’t make the next mistake many people do when planting a new shrub, especially deciduous azaleas which are shallow rooted, by planting too deeply. Plant the rootball slightly high, water well, and mulch with pinestraw.

 

 

 

Once your shrub is planted, don’t neglect water. Though they need a well draining soil, they also need even moisture, so be mindful of this especially through the first two summers and possible dry spells.

Though they can grow up to 12’ in height, I do very minimal pruning on my deciduous azaleas, because they’re in a rocky area and haven’t quite gotten that big.

If you wish to prune yours, it’s best to prune early blooming varieties right after they bloom, since the following year’s flower buds form in June. With judicious pruning you can achieve a smaller shrub at around 6’.

Native Azalea R. canescens bloom

 

 

 

 

Do you think you have just the right spot for at least one of these beauties? I hope you do. You’ll be creating  your own magnificent symphony of color and scent for neighbors, pollinators, (and you!) to appreciate and enjoy.

By Kris Blevons

 

Design Tips For Container Plantings Focused on Foliage

I’ve talked before about creating beautiful combinations using primarily foliage as a starting point and adding flowers to complement  leaves. Container Gardens - Green Pots

While this post is about choosing interesting plants for containers, the design concepts are used by the best garden designers for beautiful landscapes too. Plantings in pots are much less intimidating, though, and are a way to try new things just for fun.

 

 

 

Use your container as a starting point to give you hints about what will look best. Does it contribute color or texture, or is it fairly plain? The point here is that leaves in plantings add color too and sometimes last longer in a design than flowers; so think about this as you study the look and shape of your pot.

 

when the ligularia on the left and the iris aren’t in bloom, it’s the foliage contrasts that will capture your attention…

Are you looking for a container planting to be a focal point in a particular area? Some of the most dramatic plantings I’ve seen have made use of extremely large foliage plants, elephant ears being a notable example.

The photo here showing black elephant ears, fern, and ligularia in my garden is an example of a landscape design that would work in a contained planting too.  The addition of the chartreuse color of a creeping jenny to trail would add additional impact.

Conversely, smaller pots work well to showcase one striking specimen plant, and groupings of pots with one variety in each can be very beautiful.

Take a walk through a favorite greenhouse or nursery, looking for leaves that catch your eye (If the plants bloom too, consider it a bonus.) or start with some foliage plants you like and add blooming plants to accent them. Be sure to match the choices with the amount of available light, whether it’s full or part sun or shade.

The first collage shown here is a small sampling of heuchera leaves, a perennial that shows off its leaf color in the late winter and early spring. Houseplants are also very useful in plantings for shade and love the humidity our summer days and nights provide.

This planting of ferns, acorus and a rex begonia will appreciate a spot in filtered sun through the summer…

The second collage shows a few common but very beautiful houseplants. Showcasing a grouping of a few favorite and well grown rex begonias could also be a stunning tableau on any shady patio or porch.

The bottom line: Try to choose plants that play off your container’s size, color, and shape. When choosing your plants, consider your light and find those plants that have contrasting foliage shape, texture, varied sized leaves and that need the same water requirements.

 

 

All of these plants for a sunny spot will work well in a container…

Don’t be afraid to experiment with a new plant you’ve never tried before, and ask for help if you have questions. Enjoy your new plantings, and show them off to your friends!

 

All foliage…

Now that you’ve taken the time to choose just the right plants, take care of them. Start by purchasing a quality, light-weight soilless potting soil (We carry Fafard, and use it for all of our plantings.). Add a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. 

 

Position the plants in the container, then remove the plants from their pots and set them on the soil. Do any have roots completely encircling the rootball? Loosen them gently before planting. Firm each plant into the pot, and water them well.

As your plantings grow, they will need occasional trimming and grooming. This is part of gardening, and should be looked on as a normal part of plant ownership. Don’t be afraid to clip a plant back that is overgrown and remove any yellow or discolored leaves. If you’ve added blooming plants to your combinations, be sure to deadhead, or remove old blooms, regularly.

By Kris Blevons

 

Cool Season Annuals…What Are They, And When Do You Plant Them?

The Birmingham area can see great fluctuations in temperatures in any given year, from sizzling summer highs in the upper 90’s to lows well below freezing in the winter complete with rain, sleet and even snow (Look HERE for a post on the blizzard of ‘93.).

Ornamental kale, trailing pansies, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’

Winter planting of cool season kale and pansies

For gardeners this can present a quandary when trying to decide among the dizzying array of plants at the local garden center. While the last average frost date here is mid-April, the soil can still be too cold for the real heat loving plants like zinnias, impatiens, lantana, and caladiums, to name just a few, that will sail through our blistering summers but languish in cold soil.

Enter the cool season annuals. These are the plants that prefer cooler temperatures and thrive in the early fall, winter, and early spring. If you know which ones they are and when to plant them, you’ll be ahead of the gardening game.

Foxglove after days of freezing temps

A few days ago, after we experienced temperatures in the teens at night with snow and cold weather for a number of days, I checked on some of my winter grown cool season plants to see how they’d fared.

The pansies, poppies, snapdragons, and foxgloves are very hardy plants that I’d added to the garden in October and November, though if you find larger transplants they can be planted in late winter as well. They looked fine, though some that were more exposed had damage. As temperatures warm they should rebound nicely.

But, since they’re also considered cool season annuals, they’ll fade as our spring heat arrives for good in May. Then it will be time to replace them with the real heat lovers I mentioned earlier.  Remember, our last average frost is right around mid-April. We can count on things warming up quickly after this date. This is also about when everything in sight is turning yellow from the pollen falling everywhere – including covering cool season plantings and our cars!Poppy - Buds Frozen

Cool season annuals have a tough life. They might like it cool, but freezing is a bit much even for them. The picture of the poppy here shows what happened to the majority of them that were just beginning to put up fat buds when temperatures dipped into the teens for a few nights in a row.

The buds were completely frozen, but the plant itself came through fine since since mulch helped keep the plant and rootball warm. They too will be in full bloom in another month or so and are examples of what can be planted from 4″ pots in the fall.

The second picture shows (circled) seedlings of larkspur and poppies grown from seed sown  directly into the garden in December. I sow extras any time from November to January when the soil is cold enough for their liking.

Poppy and Larkspur seedlings and a SnapdragonAt any rate, you can see these tiny plants in this sunny, south facing bed weren’t fazed by the cold temperatures at all. I’m looking forward to their blooms in the late spring!

Some other cool season annuals that are more frost tender will begin to arrive in the garden shop soon. They  include sweet alyssum, geraniums, petunias, nasturtiums, bacopa, and more. Because they come out of cushy greenhouse environments you’ll want to protect them  from any late freezes.

We’ll check back on these plantings in future posts.

 

By Kris Blevons

 

Edgeworthia

Edgeworthia chrysantha…A Great Shrub To Grow

I can’t imagine why, after all these years, this is the first I’m writing about one of my favorite shrubs, Edgeworthia chrysantha, or paperbush.

EdgeworthiaThis wonderful plant for our area has interest in all the seasons, culminating with fragrant blooms in spring.

Its open, well branched growth habit and winter silhouette in the garden is superb, as buds that form in the fall add interest and promise through the long winter months.

After the bloom period is over, the leaves begin to emerge with silky, white hairs, with a lovely, bluish color and slight silver tint.Edgeworthia leaves

The scent is what will knock you out though. It’s slightly spicy and is one of those fragrances that you’ll get a hint of before you see the plant. Believe me, everyone will ask what it is and where you got it the first time they come across it.Edgeworthia

Edgeworthia is native to woodlands in the Himalayas and China. The inner bark can be used to make paper, hence the name paperbush. Edgeworthia is grown in Japan expressly for making paper out of the inner bark…for bank notes.

Part shade is the best place to grow your edgeworthia. They appreciate rich soil, never too dry. If you try to grow it in too much sun the color won’t be quite as pretty. Speaking of color, in the fall the leaves turn shades of yellow. Yes, it really does give all season interest!

EdgeworthiaProvide it some room wherever you decide to plant it. Its width  at maturity will be at least 7 feet wide and as high.

Mine is very wide but not at 7 feet tall yet. Here you can see it, to the left of the tree in my garden. It seems to be continuing to spread, and has suckered a bit, obviously wanting to take up some more real estate. I think I’ll let it!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

A Christmas Poem

 

The year 2020 has been pretty tough
But you’ve all made it seem just a little less rough

March began so uncertain
Though soon we knew we’d stay open

Essential we were deemed, and
though relieved,

 

we found
staying open was stressful…

But first one, then so many more of you
came to support us

First, at the street, all distancing by 6 feet
You followed our guidelines

You made us feel safe,
donning your mask
before you walked through our door

Thank you for caring and
helping us through

We wouldn’t have made it
without loyal patrons like you!

So the trees are all sold,
holiday flowers have new homes

Christmas is here
(The New Year soon too!)

Now we wish blessings on all –
and only good health for you!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 🎄

From all of us at
Oak Street Garden Shop

Cyclamen – Winter Beauties For Your Home

Florist cyclamen, with their beautifully patterned leaves and pretty blooms, are one of the best flowering houseplants for winter color, and they’re usually available any time from November through late February, or until the weather warms. In nature hardy cyclamen grow naturally in cool, humid environments, and tubers gradually go through cycles of growth and dormancy.

In your home florist cyclamen prefer a bright spot with temperatures around 68 degrees during the day and preferably a bit cooler at night. If your room is very warm, or you overwater, the leaves will begin to yellow and the flowers won’t last long.

tiny buds unfurl from the center of the plant

Once you’ve found the right placement, water sparingly, but don’t let it get so dry that the leaves wilt. It’s best to water cyclamen from the bottom. Let it sit in a tray of water for about 30 minutes or until the soil is moist, then repeat when the soil begins to dry.

As flowers fade, keep them deadheaded to prolong the bloom. Usually there are tiny buds down in the very center of the plant, much like violets and another reason to water from the bottom. If your cyclamen is happy the buds will continue to offer flowers until it’s time to rest.

Eventually your cyclamen will bloom out and begin to go dormant. You’ll know this is happening because the leaves will yellow and eventually all disappear. This is normal, and hardy cyclamen in the garden do this naturally as the plant goes into a rest period through the summer months.  In your home, stop watering and place the plant in a cool dark place.

beautifully patterned leaves…

It will look like your plant is dying as the leaves turn yellow one by one.  After a period of some months of dormancy with little to no water, it will be time to bring it back into more light and begin to water again. Water it thoroughly until the soil is completely saturated, then resume normal care. You’ll begin to see leaves reappear, and buds should follow.

Cyclamen are a little more demanding in their water and light needs, but they more than reward you if you persist!

****If the buds on your cyclamen don’t open, you might have cyclamen mites. These tiny insects lay their eggs around the buds. The larva enters the bud after it hatches and suck sap from unopened petals. Unfortunately buds infested with mites won’t open and since these pests are difficult to manage its best to discard infested plants.

If you think your cyclamen has mites and you’d like to treat them, the information below is from the University of Kentucky:

“Often, it is better to discard infested plants than to attempt to control the problem with pesticides. If chemical control is attempted, isolate the infested plants to reduce potential spread of the mites. Spraying the plants with…insecticidal soap can provide effective control, especially after pruning back the growth. Three to four applications should be made at 3 to 5 day intervals with insecticidal soap.  Direct applications at both the lower and upper leaf surfaces.”

By Kris Blevons

 

Primulina (Chirita) Plants…Something New For You To Try!

chirita plants have beautiful foliage...

chirita plants have beautiful foliage…

No, we didn’t say Chiquita (It’s not a banana!) but chirita, as in chirita plant…these beauties are actually indoor plants closely related to the African violet in the gesneriad family. They’re relatively new on the plant scene, as many have only been released into cultivation within the last 15 years.

Though we are just now becoming familiar with them, Chirita (Also referred to as Primulina.)  is actually a huge genera and has 150 species, ranging from their native Sri Lanka and India through the Himalayas and into China and Southeast Asia. The islands of Sumatra, Java and Borneo also claim them. It’s quite an exotic!  Many of the species can be seen growing in their native habitats on rocky hillsides or cliffs, often on limestone.

Primulina - ChiritaGrown here for their beautiful foliage and flowers, we carry them whenever they’re available as an addition to the indoor landscape. We have quite a few in stock now if you’d like to try one. Their care is fairly simple and similar to African violets, which makes sense since they’re closely related.

Let the soil lightly dry between watering and water with lukewarm water. It’s better to err on the side of dryness – they don’t like to be soggy (Remember those rocky hillsides they grow on naturally!). They will suffer if over fertilized but do need some food. So, every other watering,  mix an even formula fertilizer (20-20-20 would be good) at 1/4 strength.

IMG1744Avoid direct sun on the foliage, especially during the hottest hours of the day. So, near East, West, or shaded South facing windows are ideal for the bright light they need to thrive and bloom. Like most houseplants, temperatures between 60-80 degrees are ideal.

Repot when the plant has filled the pot completely. As with many plants, when you repot it’s best to move only one pot size up. Shallow pots are better than deep pots since they’ll be less likely to hold too much moisture. Always lightly moisten the new potting soil  (We use Fafard soilless mix.).

chirita and episcia

chirita and episcia

The foliage on these plants is so beautiful that, even when they’re not in bloom, the plant is still quite striking. We’ve combined them with pilea and also with episcia, another pretty foliage plant, to great effect.

For all you adventuresome folks out there, these beautiful and easy care plants are definitely worth trying – and, since there are many in stock now, this is the perfect time to come in and have your pick of the greenhouse…because, really, who doesn’t need a little more of the exotic in their lives?

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

Aromi Hybrid Azalea - Kris' Garden

Thoughts Of A Gardener Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic

Like everything else, writing has been difficult during this extraordinary time. Words don’t flow as easily as they normally do, and the things I might write about this time of year – timing of planting annuals, perennial offerings, how to amend your soil – seem trivial.

Our little garden shop is celebrating its 30th year in the middle of a pandemic of epic proportion. In Alabama, garden shops are considered (rightly so) an essential business, so every day I get up, don my cloth mask, and come to work.

NurseryWork days are spent doing what I call the “Corona Dance”, stepping around, and back, then forward again, usually having to reroute, going the long way around to get where I was originally needing to be. Distancing myself from customers and fellow employees. So odd.

 

Most people are accommodating and have also begun wearing their own masks and gloves. I find myself being a field marshall of sorts most days: Directing people as they arrive to gather plants by their car, telling them we’ll get a credit card number there when they’re finished. The social distancing maneuvering would be a strange sight to an outsider if it wasn’t so apparent what was happening.Big Leaf Begonias

Some people are coming in now because they’re bored with being at home.  They’re looking for yard plantings to do with the kids, or they need to tackle long put off projects – pine strawing that overgrown natural area or building the raised bed they’ve thought about but never quite made the time for.

There also seem to be an unusual number of large piles of brush by the road, the probable result of many housebound homeowners armed with chainsaws.

Poppies - Kris' Front GardenOthers that come in are the ones I consider the real gardeners. At some point they usually say something like, “Thank you for being here. I don’t know what I’d do without my garden.”

They wander slowly through the nursery. It’s an outing for them away from being quarantined but also a release – they gather plants by their car and go back for more. This is their therapy, a respite from everything that’s wrong with the world. I understand and leave them to think and plan.

I, of course, think that gardening is an essential art and that garden shops are essential businesses. At face value, we carry items that people can use to provide for themselves: Vegetable and herb plants for food, food items to eat. But, even more than that, we are essential for peace of mind, for calm.Woodland - Kris' Garden

I know this is true for me. Especially now. My days are spent each week dancing around, unable to help people in the comfortable way I have for years.

I separate and work distantly from fellow employees and find what was once easy has become so complicated simply from not being able to work in close proximity to others. It is exhausting.

Woodland - Kris' GardenMy garden is a complete release from everything. It is where I go to lose myself – to work hard, get sweaty and dirty, and, yes, to sit and daydream as well. Clematis 'Niobe' - Kris' Garden

The truth is my garden is essential to my sense of normalcy during an unnatural time. I know the snapdragons I planted last fall will bloom as they do every spring, the roses will bud, some plants will thrive, others will not. It’s a comfort to know that no matter what, the natural order of things will continue.

I hope your garden gives you peace now too.

By Kris Blevons

Guidelines for shopping at Oak Street Garden Shop:

1. Wear a mask or other face covering. Even if you feel well, you may be asymptomatic and unknowingly pass on this extremely contagious virus. Do this for others – including employees who must interact with a lot of people all day, every day.
2. Maintain social distance of 6’ – Yes, this is weird, it doesn’t come naturally, but it is very, very important. Don’t let your guard down – we’ve seen people casually walking by each other. Social Distance!
3. Please don’t congregate in one spot – you might not notice other people wanting to look at plants near you.
4. Leave your pets at home. Much as we love to see them, it adds to the difficulty of moving through the nursery. Trust us, they’ll get extra treats after this virus is past us!
5. Leave children at home. Even in the best of times it’s hard to keep track of a little one while you’re trying to shop, and they may even be an innocent carrier of the virus.
6. Limit your party to no more than 2 people. Remember, others will also be trying to shop and social distance in the area.
7. Be aware of others around you, and shop efficiently. Put all plants by your car, or if you’re parked on the side in an open area on that end of the nursery. We will get your credit card information there when you’re ready.

🌻🌿🌿We value all of you and want to make your shopping experience with us a safe one. Thank you for your help and cooperation!🌿🌿🌻

 

 

 

Celebrating 30 Years With A Look Back – A Decade Of Change 2000-2010

The first 10 years of Oak Street Garden Shop were marked by slow and steady growth. Of course, any successful business has to “go with the flow” and roll with the sometimes sucker punches of weather, employee turnover, and unforeseen expenses.

9/11Memorial

9/11 memorial

The decade of the 2000’s certainly held its share of surprises though. It began with the national tragedy of 9/11, a memory seared into the collective conscience of every one of us. No one would have dreamed in Oak Street Garden Shop’s beginnings in 1990 that a piece of New York City’s  World Trade Center would have a place directly across the street (many years after the tragedy, as part of a memorial in front of a newly constructed City Hall and fire station complex  in the next decade), or that a completely rebuilt 2-story library would be completed in the spring of 2001, or that a devastating drought would bring the business to its knees, simultaneously giving birth to a recognized and respected ‘green industry’.

Emmet O'Neal Library

Emmet O’Neal Library

Looking back, it just doesn’t seem possible we lived through all of that and more. The old Emmet O’Neal library came down quickly and went up just as fast, though it began with the incessant pounding day after day after day of the piledrivers, driving deep into the Mountain Brook bedrock.

My head had never hurt so badly as it did those weeks of that early construction. The pounding continued in our heads even after we left for the day and the next day and the day after…until finally, blessedly, it ended and the building began to rise and rise and rise across the corner from Oak Street Garden Shop.

The one-two punch of an historic drought of 2007 and a downturn in the economy in 2008 were the next big tests of the now established business. Until 2007, the shop had been running  like clockwork, and new customers continued to find our little shop across from the library.

Things were looking good. But then, in 2007, the rains stopped.  Birmingham received barely 29 inches of rainfall – well below normal rainfall of nearly 54.  A mere 31.85 inches fell in Atlanta, also well below the average, and Huntsville was just as bad. The entire southeast was going into a drought.

With such serious water shortages, the Birmingham Water Board directed the full force of its weight toward outdoor watering restrictions, and we found ourselves in the direct line of fire.  Because the BWW  publicly declared all garden related businesses “non-essential“, by their new rules  we were not allowed to water even any of the very few plants we were stocking.

Put in the bluntest terms, since they considered our work “non-essential”, it wouldn’t matter to them  if we went out of business.  Billy Angell knew right away that, if he couldn’t convince the Mountain Brook City Council to create a special ordinance allowing Oak Street Garden Shop to water its plant inventory, he might as well close his doors for good.

It was a very scary and depressing time for us all.  The stress was etched on Billy Angell’s face as he stood before the Mountain Brook city council that Tuesday evening.  He had totaled all the water bills for Oak Street Garden Shop from the previous year – a grand total of $500.  His personal home usage had been much more.  Thankfully, the city leaders at the time valued Oak Street Garden Shop enough to allow the hand watering with hoses of our plants, a practice which continues to this day. It still surprises people that the amount of water we use irrigating plants is not more significant.  In fact, we found hand irrigating to be even more efficient and  eventually completely  dismantled the irrigation system for good a few years later.

The battle certainly wasn’t over though, as the ripple effects of this historic drought were astounding. Many growers and nurseries, because of outright outdoor watering bans in surrounding areas and states, went out of business. We were witnessing the industry  we had worked in for years casually tossed off as not worth listening to, helping, or being of any value at all to the community or state.

It was a mind-numbing thought. Garden shops and wholesale nurseries  watched as car washes continued without restriction, though people were told they shouldn’t wash their cars so much. Large industrial plants continued to use enormous amounts of water unabated, and indoor usage of water was never threatened beyond suggestions of how to conserve water inside and the discussion of a tiered billing system.

In fact, by their rules, we could water with abandon inside the greenhouse. Of course, that hardly mattered since only a few were buying plants they’d have to water, be it inside or out.  And, while we understood that cutting back on outdoor water usage was absolutely necessary, it seemed to us that a more balanced approach, and one which included the monitoring of indoor water usage in homes and businesses, needed to be a more focused part of the discussion. Clearly, and most importantly, our industry needed to join forces to prove our worth.

So, at this critical  juncture in the shop’s history, Billy Angell found himself part of a small but determined group of nursery owners, growers, and industry leaders. They had watched with mounting concern the outright and complete water bans going into effect in the Atlanta area and in many other parts of Georgia and had seen the serious toll they were taking on the green industry in that state. They also remembered the outright water ban that had affected Birmingham during a drought in the fall of 2001. So, feeling as though they were fighting for their livelihoods, they persevered, going to and speaking out at many Birmingham Waterworks Board meetings, pushing for more even-handed  conservation measures.

In large part due to this pressure, the water restrictions imposed did not include an outright ban. The drought continued into 2008 and segued into the downturn in the economy, so we all breathed a sigh of relief when the rains finally came again. This crisis had energized the Alabama Landscape and Nurseryman’s Association, though, and an economic impact study was commissioned which showed the extent of the newly-coined ‘Green Industry’s’ worth to the state of Alabama. Now there were solid numbers to back up our words.

What a decade, indeed…

By Kris Blevons

For me, 2007 and 2008  were difficult years for other reasons too. In June 2008, following the summer of the southeast drought, the Rock River in Wisconsin, where my parents’ home is (and where I grew up), went through historic and devastating flooding. For weeks their home, in Fort Atkinson,  and many others were on the brink of  being lost as torrential rains continued non-stop on top of  soil saturated from more than 100″ of snowmelt. The stress was palpable for them, and  for me too, being at such a distance and feeling so helpless. At the height of the flooding, as the river crested, my sister and brother-in-law drove to my parents’ home from theirs in Milwaukee to evacuate them if necessary. They made it across the final bridge as swiftly moving river water crept over the road.  My parents’ home miraculously was spared, but thousands of people and many communities throughout the Midwest were severely impacted. Looking back now, the incredible juxtaposition of flood and drought and the effect both had on my life is still difficult to think about.  

Do you have a favorite memory of Oak Street Garden Shop? We’re compiling thoughts from customers and vendors and will print them in a future blog post. Send us your thoughts, either by mail to Oak Street Garden Shop 115 Oak St. Birmingham, Al 35213 or by email to oakstreetgardenshop@gmail.com  

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

 

Vegetable/Herb Plant List – Spring 2020

The last month has been like nothing we’ve ever seen in our 30 years in business. Because of the threat of COVID-19, quite a few people have asked if we could list the vegetable and herb plants that we have in stock at any given time.

This post serves as the list of most of the vegetables and herbs we carry, but please be aware that availabilities and amounts of plants in stock can change quickly from one day to another.

Our social distancing is being strictly enforced. We ask all of you to maintain the 6’ distancing between others at all time. Please be aware of everyone around you, and remember this is for others health as well as your own. Gather the plants you would like to purchase and place them by your car. When you have everything  you want we’ll write down prices and you’ll go to check out.

Please  go into the greenhouse and stand behind the red line to be checked out. If there are people ahead of you continue to maintain the 6’ distance.  You’ll read your card number to the cashier who will take your name and phone number in lieu of your signature.

We can also gather any plants you’d like, charge your credit card and take them to your car,  but we ask for your patience as we are short staffed through this crisis.

Most vegetable plants are in 3 1/2” pots, some are in 4” pots, and later in the season there may be tomatoes in 6” pots. Most herbs are also in 3 1/2” or 4” pots as well.

VEGETABLES:  Cantaloupe; Cucumber, Burpless Supreme; Cucumber, Mexican Sour Gherkin; Cucumber, Saladmore Bush; Eggplant, Black Beauty; Eggplant, Ichiban; Okra, Clemson Spineless; Watermelon, Crimson Sweet

PEPPERS: Bhut Jolokia; Biggie Chile; Carolina Reaper; Cayenne Long Slim; Cow Horn; Gypsy; Habanero; Hot Banana; Jalapeño; Mad Hatter; Sweet Banana; Bell, California Wonder; Bell, Golden Calawonder; Trinidad Scorpion

SQUASH: Dark Green Zucchini; Multipik; Yellow Crookneck

TOMATOES: Amelia; Atkinson; Better Boy; Brandywine Red; Celebrity; Cherokee Purple; Early Girl; Indigo Rose; Parks Whopper; Roma; Sun Sugar;  Supersteak; Sweet 100; Tiny Tim;

HERBS: Basil, Sweet; Sweet n Spicy Mix; African Blue; Pesto Party; Lemon; Catnip; Chives; Cilantro; Dill; Fennel Ribera; Lavender, Anouk; Downy; French; Goodwin Creek; Phenomenal; Provence; SuperBlue; Mint, Chocolate, Corsican, Kentucky Colonel; Mojito; Peppermint, Pineapple; Spearmint; Oregano, Greek; Oregano, Variegated; Parsley, Italian Flat, Curly; Rosemary, Prostrate; Tuscan Blue; Sage, Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten; Golden; Purple; Tricolor; Pineapple; Stevia; Tarragon, French; Thyme, Golden Lemon; Lemon; Silver; Winter Garden

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating 30 Years With A Look Back – Build It And They Will Come…

There are many businesses in the surrounding areas that have celebrated more years than our 30, but I felt the need to mark the passing of time and the evolution of this small independent gardenshop in the Mountain Brook suburb of Birmingham, Alabama.

Billy and Jon Culver...building the shadehouse

Billy and Jon Culver…building the shadehouse

With the 2013 overhaul of our website by Rebecca Moody, this process has become as easy as writing a blog post, and events that might otherwise be forgotten or dismissed as unimportant can be recognized and remembered. And, whether these  words are read or not, it feels good to know they’re here and won’t be allowed to fade with faulty memory.

From Oak Street Garden Shop’s beginnings in 1990, with his construction of the first shade house and greenhouse, to the process of buying the lumber and saws necessary to put together the tables and erect the fences that would surround his nursery, it was obvious owner Billy Angell enjoyed woodworking and building.

It was a project...

It was a big project…

He knew that his flat-topped and quite ordinary shade house, covered with its simple shade cloth, wouldn’t do forever.

Wanting something more permanent and visually striking (and knowing this would be a big woodworking  project),  he was excited to get started and began to make his drawings for submission to Mountain Brook City Hall for design approval and a building permit.

With the city’s consent granted in the mid 90’s, Billy and employee Jon Culver began working on the new shade house after the busy holiday season had passed.  At this time of the year the nursery was relatively empty, so moving in the quantities of lumber needed was also easier, though the weather didn’t always cooperate.

Winter snow while building the shadehouse...

Winter snow while building the shadehouse…

In fact, you can see the snow in one of these pictures (Thankfully this wasn’t the year of the blizzard!). With additional help provided by Eddy Robinson (a friend and fellow carpenter), the new shade house slowly took shape, and its 25′  high A-frame, after completion, would become a prominent feature of his garden shop. It was a very exciting event!

An Early Container Plantings...Billy with Eun Joo Early 90s...

An Early Container Planting…

While Billy, Jon, and Eddy worked each day raising the shadehouse, the shop hummed steadily along.  Ellen had begun putting combinations of green and flowering plants in baskets the first year of business to give as gifts, and by now there were many people using these baskets to provide fresh plants in their homes too.

As a result we stayed very busy at the two work tables, situated at the time on either side of the entrance to the greenhouse. Most days of the week we worked evenings after closing to fill orders to be picked up the next day.

Because these tables were in plain sight on each side of the front doors, we tried to keep them as neat as possible. The original  plan had been to keep one clean for wrapping potted plants as gifts, while the other work space would be allowed to get “dirty”, the result of making basket combinations, planting, etc.

The sign being built...

The sign being built…

That arrangement didn’t last long though, since we were creating more plantings than wrapping flowers,  and potting soil and plants inevitably ended up all over both tables. This would eventually become quite a problem as more employees came and the design business grew. Where to put the finished baskets and container plantings would also need to be addressed soon, as there were more and more orders to find room for.

Confederate Jasmine had reached the top of the sign...it was killed the winter of 2013.

Confederate Jasmine had reached the top of the sign…it was killed the winter of 2013.

It was during the construction of the shadehouse that the distinctive Oak Street Garden Shop sign planter went up. It has, over these many years, become one of my favorite planting spaces, giving me opportunity to showcase those plants that will handle the brutal Alabama summer heat radiating off the asphalt in July and August (And has offered lessons on those that can’t too!).

I’ve also been able to combine many cool season plants in the winter months, have grown vines of Confederate jasmine, Mandevilla, Carolina Jasmine, and Moonvine up its length, and tried Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ , a beautiful selection of our non-invasive Native American wisteria, in our 25th year. I’m so glad it’s a planter sign. It seems fitting for a garden shop. Unfortunately, in 2019 it came down in a wind storm. Nothing lasts forever…

This aerial view from 1997 shows the finished shadehouse...

This aerial view from 1997 shows the finished shadehouse in front of the greenhouse…

The aerial picture shown here was taken sometime in the fall of 1997 and shows off the shade house, which still looks new. It was in the spring of this year that a shy 20 year old named Jamie applied for a job.  Like me, she’d  gotten lost trying to find her way and tells of finally following a white unmarked delivery van that unbelievably led her to the shop. How happy we are she chose that particular white van to follow! It’s been a joy to see how she’s grown as a mother, an artist, and now as manager of the greenhouse.

Shadehouse completed...mid-90's

Shadehouse completed…mid-90’s

So the final physical framework of the building was completed, and there was a tightknit framework of employees as well.. Soon, though, this would change. By the turn of the new century, and the end of Oak Street Garden Shop’s first decade in business, Ellen has been wooed away to begin a writing career for Southern Living Magazine and Jon ventures out to open his own garden shop. In the next posts, a friend makes the perfect suggestion for changing the work table layout, we lived through the first construction across the street as the Emmit O’Neal library is razed and rebuilt, and a devastating drought threatens to end the business. 

Do you have a favorite memory of Oak Street Garden Shop? We’re compiling thoughts from customers and vendors and will print them in a future blog post. Send us your thoughts, either by mail to Oak Street Garden Shop 115 Oak St. Birmingham, Al 35213 or by email to oakstreetgardenshop@gmail.com  

We look forward to hearing from you!

Posted by Kris Blevons