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 will try Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ , a beautiful selection of our non-invasive Native American wisteria, in this, 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

Celebrating 30 Years With A Look Back…The Blizzard of ’93

The horticulture business is framed out of necessity by the weather and the vagaries of nature… heat, cold, storms, wind, drought. When Billy Angell built Oak Street Garden Shop’s first  shade house early in 1990 and finished the greenhouse at the end of that year, he knew that, even with these  protections for the plants, the weather would always be a factor in whether a year was exceptional or just average.

Blizzard of '93

The day after…

No one in horticulture ignores weather reports, and Billy was certainly no different. It’s a typical pattern: Rainy days are usually slow days, and a string of great weather makes any nurseryman smile. Snow in the south is definitely a recipe for a bad greenhouse day or, more likely, multiple days.  I know many of you remember Birmingham’s historic blizzard of March 12, 1993, and have your stories to tell. Here is Oak Street Garden Shop’s:

The local and national weathermen had been analyzing the forecast carefully for days, and, by all accounts, the conditions were ripe for a possible historic snow event. But how much? Just a week earlier multiple spring shipments had rolled in on large trucks, been unloaded, priced, and set out in the nursery. And, though this was only the third year of his fledgling start-up, Oak Street Garden Shop, Billy Angell had been in the nursery business for many years previous and knew this weather forecast had the potential to spell big trouble.image

Looking at the plant material, he saw with his practiced eye many shrubs with buds or open blooms just arrived from the warmer gulf coast, tropical blooming plants of plumbago, beautiful yellow “daisy trees” (euryops) from the west coast, and many, many more with tender new growth that would easily sustain foliage damage in temperatures near freezing, let alone below.

This was a constant worry each late winter/early spring. Shipments of plants arrived, and, inevitably, the Alabama winter temperatures would plummet. We’d shift pots close together and cover them with poly and frost cloth, moving other even more tender tropicals into the warmth of the greenhouse. This moving, covering, uncovering, and endless shifting would become a routine rhythm of early spring not only this year but each of the many years that followed.

image

An impassable road on the day after…

The morning of Friday, March 12th, I came in to work, expecting to begin the process of covering the many plants in the nursery and moving some inside. Billy had been watching the forecast, though, and told his small staff the decision he’d come to the night before. “I think we need to move everything in,” he said soberly.

“So you’ve changed your mind about covering?”, I asked. “I’ve been going round and round about it,”, he answered.  “But, if the totals they’re predicting come true, I’d rather have everything in the greenhouse than have the weight of that much snow collapse the poly over them.”

image

I think that was my car…

We all looked at each other. If we were going to be taking everything in, we needed to get to work, as it was going to take non-stop moving to get it done before the day was through. Billy had worked out a plan the night before between watching weather forecasts. The largest trees and shrubs would be moved first, loaded onto carts if they weren’t too large, walked in one by one if they were.

Back and forth, in and out we went, lining the large pots in straight lines and right up against each other, tight. There’d certainly be no getting to plants once they were in place. Starting on the far left side right up against the wall of the cool cell, slowly but steadily filling in and moving toward the middle and finally to the very opposite end of the greenhouse, it was becoming a solid patchwork of greens, yellows, pinks, blues. It seemed as though all the colors of spring were being safeguarded from the coming weather.

By that afternoon, finally finished, we looked over the sea of plants. Numbering in the hundreds, trees, tropicals, shrubs, perennials, herbs, and tender annuals, all side by side from one end of the greenhouse to the other with not an inch to spare between.

imageExhausted, we went next door to have a drink and relax a bit before heading to our respective homes and families.  Relieved we were through and enjoying a few laughs, we all suddenly noticed how heavily the large flakes were falling and began saying our goodbyes, heading  out into the rapidly falling snow.

By the time this historic snow storm was over, the totals were over 12″ in our southern city and thousands of people were without power. We all knew then that no one would forget where they were and what they were doing leading up to and through the Blizzard of ’93.

The next day Billy trekked through the foot-deep snow the mile from his house to Oak Street Garden Shop, relieved to see that the greenhouse had withstood the weight of the heavy, wet snow. And, though the generator refused to start to power the large heaters, the fact there were hundreds of plants packed so tightly together served to provide just enough protection from the cold to keep them from freezing, and, amazingly, only a very few were lost.Birdhouse in snow

So the weather, bad as it was, had not won this round since his nurseryman’s decision had been the right one. Less than a month later (after having moved every plant back to its proper place, then repeatedly covering and uncovering, moving others in and out and back again as temperatures still dipped down, then back up in the normal rhythm), we finally enjoyed the full and exuberant throes of spring, and the Blizzard of ’93 slowly and easily slid into distant memory.

This is the second post in a series celebrating Oak Street Garden Shop’s 30th year in business. For the first, highlighting Oak Street Garden Shop’s beginnings, take a look HERE.

Posted  by Kris Blevons

 

 

Celebrating 30 Years With a Look Back…(Part 1)

1991...The entrance - note the flat-topped shade house...

1991…The entrance – note the flat-topped shade house…

How do you describe the passage of  30 years in a blog post? That’s a tough question, and one I grappled with for quite some time before writing and rewriting this first post. The process would probably be easier for an outsider, dryly describing dates, events, and facts, I thought.

Billy

Billy and the yellow tent…

But, having worked at Oak Street Garden Shop for 29  of these 30 years, it’s so much more than the passage of time marked as dates on paper. It’s all of the wonderful customers we’ve known from the very beginning, many becoming friends, and, sadly, more than a few with us only in memory.

It’s the vendors we’ve created lasting relationships with, through the boom years and a few rocky spells, steady compatriots in a fickle, tough business. Though we saw a few of those fall by the wayside, too…greenhouse and nursery owners that finally gave up their dreams.  Nothing stays the same. In 30 years there have been so many changes. And the sturdy greenhouse itself, once shiny and new, also shows the passage of time, though it’s been well and truly loved.

1991...Inside the Greenhouse

1991…Inside the Greenhouse

It’s the employees that have come and gone through the years, each having brought their unique personalities, talents, and humor to their jobs, making each day one to look forward to.  The ones that have moved on and those that have stayed are all players in its history and have contributed so much.

Looking through various assorted pictures, it’s obvious there are gaps. 30 years ago we didn’t have ubiquitous cell phones out and ready to capture every moment. It took effort and thought to remember to bring the camera, get some photos, and hope our chosen shots turned out.

1991 - At the end of the nursery by what is now Dyron's.

1991 – At the end of the nursery by what is now Dyron’s.

So Billy Angell established Oak Street Garden Shop without any fanfare on a chilly day in March, 1990, by putting up a yellow tent and setting some flats of bedding plants on the table he’d set up under it. His greenhouse was nearing completion, and he was sitting in the middle of what used to be a parking lot in the center of Crestline Village, in his hometown of Mountain Brook, Alabama.

He had aptly named this new venture Billy Angell’s Oak Street Garden Shop. Outwardly he exuded confidence, but he also knew he had to succeed, since he had a mortgage, 2 children, and a wife to support. At the end of each day of business he rolled down the sides of the tent, picked up the cash drawer, loaded it into his car, and went home.

1991 - See the red lines outlining the "beds"? Shade house is flat...covered by shade cloth.

1991 – See the red lines outlining the “beds”? Shade house is flat…covered by shade cloth.

The first project on this site had actually begun earlier with the design and building of a shade house, constructed on weekends. This was a simple flat structure, with a shade cloth laid over it, to protect plants from the hot sun and scorching heat that radiated off the asphalt of the old parking lot.

He worked steadily, as curious people watched  and asked questions. One day two young women walking by stopped and asked him what he was building. “I’m going to open a nursery,” he replied. They smiled and walked on, then turned around and came back. “What ages children will you be accepting?”

Billy and Ellen.. 1991

Billy and Ellen.. 1991

That January, he left his other job for good and was ready to begin building his greenhouse. It would have just enough room for a tiny office and restroom tacked on to one end (Until it was completed, the  “facilities” consisted of a port-a-john and plants were watered with a hose hooked up to the restaurant next door). The greenhouse was finished that fall having been completely built by himself and a young boy, Tanner Broughton.

Oak Street Garden Shop was now officially in business with full time help from a former employee, Ellen Riley, and part time help from a neighbor. Having run a much larger nursery and landscape company previously, his smaller version was the perfect fit for him and the community,  nestled next door to a favorite local restaurant and situated  across the street from Mountain Brook’s City Hall and fire station and the much loved Emmet O’Neal Library. It was truly a neighborhood garden shop.

Vignette at the end of the nursery...early 90s

Vignette at the end of the nursery…early 90s

As that first year progressed, it seemed the local residents enjoyed having plants available in their community, and they supported their hometown entrepreneur. The Birmingham News even came out and took a picture. He outlined “beds” in paint to delineate where “paths” through the nursery should be, envisioning an English garden with perennials, shrubs, and planters eventually filling in the empty spaces…and, slowly, they did.

The next year it was apparent that business was going well, and the addition of a second full time employee was warranted. This was more than a little nerve-wracking for Billy, as he wanted to get just the right person for his brand new business. Many people applied for the job, including me.

1991...Kris at the first cash register...

1991…Kris at the first cash register…

The day I applied I had gotten lost and pulled into the Fire Department to ask where Oak Street Garden Shop was located. The fireman grinned and pointed across the street. “Over there,” he said. I looked, there was no sign yet, just a few plants and a greenhouse (How did I miss that?!).  I was the most persistent applicant it turns out,  and it paid off, as he wasn’t entirely sold on me, but gave me the job anyway. He tells me now that Ellen had to talk him into giving me a shot.

My first days at Oak Street Garden Shop were rocky. Asked to weed a pot in the nursery, I dutifully grabbed a handful of weeds and fire ants raced up my arm, stinging me to pieces. It also  took some  time  to acclimate to working virtually outside through the heat of summer in the south, as I was from the relatively cooler midwest. But I hung in and slowly but surely became hooked.

As the years progressed, we weathered the historic Birmingham blizzard of ’93, (We’ll explore that in a future post.) more employees came, a new shade house was built, customer’s tastes dictated more planted containers, a fresh produce area was added, and a garden came to life across the street. More on these developments in the next posts. 

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!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owl Statuary 2020

A Sampling of Statuary and Planters To Start The New Year

Outdoor Planters 2020Statuary 2020

 

 

 

 

Each January the first shipments of planters and statuary come in, and we try to mix it up a bit, ordering some things we haven’t had before along with others that are tried and true.Garden Spheres 2020Statuary 2020Outdoor Planters 2020Planters 2020Statuary January 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whimsical frogs, little animals, a bench for the garden, and more are displayed at the end of the nursery, and they’re easy to browse, especially in the winter months before we fill up with the plants that will take center stage through the spring.Owl Statuary 2020Outdoor Planters and Statuary 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a glimpse of the offerings so far. More will come in as spring approaches, and don’t forget to take a look in the greenhouse as well for all kinds of smaller pots and fountains of different sizes.Statuary 2020Statuary January 2020Statuary January 2020Outdoor Planters 2020Statuary 2020

 

Winter Wreath

Creating A Grapevine Winter Wreath With Nature’s Offerings


Winter Wreath with Lichen and BirchGrapevine wreaths offer rustic beauty any time of the year. We had a few still in stock from the holidays, and I decided to dress this one up with lichen, birch bark, moss, and branches to make it a wintry white wreath full of texture and color.

Birch bark is a favorite to work with, and it brings back fond memories of family camping trips in the upper midwest with my family. The papery white bark seemed to glow in the afternoon light, a beautiful sight through all the seasons in the northern woods.Winter Wreath

The birch tears easily and can be curled through the wreath or glued on as well. I worked three pieces onto the grapevine fashioning a “bow” of sorts and added smaller pieces halfway around the grapevine, gluing and tying them in place.

Winter Wreath

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Wreath Closeup

 

Branches covered in lichen and moss are another favorite design element, and we still had a few beautiful ones that I placed onto the grapevine next. Once those were attached,  it still needed a few more pieces of lichen in spots, but it was almost complete.Winter Wreath Closeup

Finally I tucked some dark green reindeer moss where I thought it needed a bit of color, and for a finishing touch slipped a few popcorn stems into the grapevine to add a pop of  white.

If you want to try a project like this, remember that nature always offers the best decorative elements, and you just might find them in your own back yard. Don’t want to make your own?  Come see us if you’d like one of ours!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

Leaf Stacking Design


All the best gardeners I know have a great eye not only for finding the right place in their landscape for plants they love but also for combining them in a way that shows off leaves as well as blooms.Woodland Garden


Thinking about this I walked through my garden picking leaves at random, noting their shape, color and texture. I laid them on the ground and created a design of sorts – a fleeting collage of color. It became even more brilliant a few days later after a rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But there’s no playing with leaves today. Today is the day to prepare  for the first hard freeze of the season. Tender plants moved into the garage for the winter, special plants saved for the next growing season, and outdoor pots and newly planted beds watered ahead of the cold.

 

I know I’ll take another walk though weeks from now, after all the leaves have fallen, been raked and piled, and become compost gold. As I walk my eye will fall on evergreen trees, shrubs, and  ground covers, the workhorses of winter and  the “bones” of a good garden. Perhaps I’ll choose a few to make a winter leaf design…

 By Kris Blevons

 

 

Thoughts Of Fall On A November Weekend

Liam, sunning himself on a warm fall day...

Liam, sunning himself on a warm fall day…

Every year it happens. Fall arrives, and we welcome it with open arms as a happy counterpoint to months of sizzling temperatures.

 

Fall - Violas, Peppers and Minipumpkins

It comes just in time too, since by this point  we’ve tired of watching spring plantings gradually and inexorably succumb to summer’s never ending heat and humidity.

Branches of bittersweet and mini pumpkins accent an oncidium orchid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the new season come truckloads of pumpkins, branches of bittersweet, traditional mums, and sweet pansies, showing all the hues  of the harvest, blanketing the front of  the shop with a riot of color.

Fall - PansiesFall - Pansies

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Orchid Arrangement

 

Even the orchids give way, the elegant white phalaenopsis stepping aside as oncidiums and dendrobiums in shades of yellows, golds, deep purples, and browns take center stage.

End of the season coleus mingle with ornamental peppers...

Fall - Arrangement

Working with plants as we do, the seasons seem magnified.

 

 

Our livelihoods are driven by them, and we look forward to the next, even as we finally tire of the previous palette’s flowers, herbs, shrubs, vegetables.

 

 

Of all the seasons, fall seems to be the most fleeting, at least here in Birmingham, Alabama.

Fall - Pumpkins

Perhaps it’s the relentless march of the holidays, with Thanksgiving  accordioned between October and December, and hearing the strains of Christmas music all too soon.

 

Harvest centerpiece...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall - Arrangement

 

 

 

Cotton bolls in arranged with pods and stems, in a pumpkin...

So, as I write this the beginning of November, with Thanksgiving still weeks away, I’m already feeling melancholy for fall.

Fall - Gourd and Bittersweet

 

 

 

 

 

Fall - Mailbox Decoration

 

 

Fall - Arrangement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The harvest season simply doesn’t last long enough for me. Looking through the pictures to add to this post lifted my spirits,  and I hope they do yours too.

Pumpkin centerpieces...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall - Arrangement

 

 

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and the opportunity to celebrate all we have to be thankful for, and I’m trying to remember to enjoy each season, even those that pass far too quickly.

Planted...violas, herbs and pods...design Molly Hand

 

 

Fall - Lettuce and Herb Arrangements...

Orchids and Gourds Arrangement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A final thought; Don’t allow yourself to get overly stressed during the coming holidays. Try to appreciate each day and the beauty it brings, and, above all, remember to slow down and breathe. A new season with fresh beginnings is right around the corner.

 

By Kris BlevonsFall - PumpkinsFall - Gourd Arrangement

Fall in the greenhouse..

Fall in the greenhouse..

Fall...Yellowwood tree

 

Fall Is Here, And The Harvest Is In!

Fall seems to have arrived, at last! When temperatures slowly drop after the sweltering long, hot days of summer, we all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year the heat felt like it would never let go, and we were unloading the harvest coming in from Tennessee as the temps soared higher and higher, nearing the 100 degree mark daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still it’s an exciting time, unloading by hand (It’s quite the workout!) all of the beautiful and unusual pumpkins and gourds. How could anyone imagine the variety and intricacy of each one? Each one individual, and, I dare say, even exhibiting personality if you look closely enough.

Speaking of personalities, the ‘Lunch Lady’ gourds really show off theirs (They also have my favorite name!). The other day a woman walked by with her ‘Lunch Lady’ purchase, one whose neck was turned back against itself exactly like a swan’s. I practically tackled her as she walked out the door, exclaiming that she’d found the best one and if I’d spotted it I’d have designed something with it for sure.

She laughed, agreeing that it did look just like a swan, and left. A few hours later she returned, saying she wanted to use her “swan gourd” on the center of her table and she had a silver platter she’d like to put it on, could I design something for her? I include the pictures of it in this post so you can see how it turned out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacking pumpkins is still a “thing”, and we have all sizes for them. Here’s an over the top giant stack, using white pumpkins with added elements and branches between each pumpkin. Other smaller stacks also incorporate gourds, smaller pumpkins, lichen, and other organic items. There’s a lot of detail in these pieces!

Succulent pumpkins also continue to be huge, though we’ve put our own twist on them, adding more to our designs besides the beautiful succulents.

 

 

 

 

This vignette was created using a customer’s large piece of driftwood. Set on a large round table, different shapes, sizes, and colors of pumpkins and gourds are nestled into the wood piece and bittersweet, moss, and angelvine complete the picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using lichen branches, different dried materials, and mosses has been exciting for all of us. Stretching the boundaries is always an interesting and fun thing, and we’re so grateful to have customers who appreciate this as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures are just a sampling of the things we’re doing – each piece is a custom design, carefully thought out. The addition of bittersweet adds yet more color to some pieces, like the two here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We use bittersweet whenever it’s available. We’re grateful that our supplier in North Carolina takes the time to cut long, beautiful pieces for us. We have one customer who wraps her chandelier with it each fall. She showed us pictures of it; it is beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are more examples of some things we’ve been working on. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made In Alabama, Lisa Bunting Howard Pots and Vases Are Handmade Beauty!

Lisa Bunting Howard PotsLast year we began carrying Birmingham native Lisa Bunting Howard’s beautiful handmade pots. Pictured here are some we’ve had in the past, though no two are alike and we fly through each shipment quickly.

 

 

 

 

With the publishing of this post we’re pleased to say Lisa has delivered another group of pots and even some small bud vases. We think any one of them would make a beautiful gift for someone special or to mark an occasion.

Anything of this quality and made with such attention to detail is definitely worth waiting for. We are happy to take your name and give you a call when more arrive if you come in between shipments.

Hope to see you soon!

 

 

 

Ginger Clark’s “We Bees Working” Local Honey Is HERE!

We are thrilled to announce that we are exclusively offering Mountain Brook resident gardener, bee keeper, and friend Ginger Clark’s “We Bees Working” honey at Oak Street Garden Shop and Local Market.

Stop in and try some next time you’re in the neighborhood. Her honey is tasty and the packaging is beautiful as well, so either size make the perfect gift too. We’ll also offer honeycomb as it is available.

 

Container Gardening – Pointers & Possibilities…

Early spring in Birmingham….the temperatures fluctuate up and down, and it’s still early to be planting the real heat lovers like caladiums and vinca in the ground – oh, but your fingers are itching to dig in the garden again…

Trailing pink vinca works well with sun loving herbs of lavender, sage and chives in this trough planting....

Trailing pink vinca works well with sun loving herbs of lavender, sage and chives in this trough planting….

Here perennial lamb's ear mixes with lavender and a pepperomia - a common houseplant that also adds great texture...

Here perennial lamb’s ear mixes with lavender, sedum and a pepperomia – (a common houseplant that also adds great texture…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sun lover includes pentas, scented geraniums, vinca and a 'Red Rubin' purple basil as well as a variegated Swedish ivy to meander through the entire composition...

This combination for sun includes pentas, scented geraniums, vinca, purple basil, and variegated Swedish ivy meandering through the entire composition…

Happily, you can begin planning your summer container plantings, which can also be great springboards for future garden groupings – testing them in a pot first is a safe and fun way to experiment.

This hanging basket for sun includes a sun loving caladium, angelonia, pink fan flower, trailing silver dichondra, and an airy white euphorbia...

This hanging basket for sun includes a sun loving caladium, angelonia, pink fan flower, trailing silver dichondra, and an airy white euphorbia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures are container combos from seasons past  – all lasted through the brutal heat of summer given water, deadheading and cutting back as necessary.

 

The old cliché of using a “thriller, filler and spiller” has been much used, (Maybe a little too much?) but don’t feel tied to it please! Designing creative plantings shouldn’t be absolute or bound by rigid rules.

'Indian Dune's' fancy leaf geranium, cordyline and thyme work in half day or full sun...

‘Indian Dune’s’ fancy leaf geranium, cordyline and thyme work in half day or full sun…

 

However, do try to combine plants that appreciate the same amount of light and water and have  growing habits that compliment one another.

 

 

 

If you can do that, any plant combo you like within those parameters is fair game. There are many plants that will handle a lot of sun but still appreciate a little shade, especially in the afternoon, when the heat is the most brutal. Others will need partial to full shade in our climate. The important thing is to choose  the right plants for whatever conditions you have.

Elephant ears add drama, with a heat tolerant fuschia, 'Gartenmeister' and a trailing maidenhair fern - this one was planted with a shady area in mind...

Elephant ears add drama, with a heat tolerant fuschia, ‘Gartenmeister’ and a trailing maidenhair fern – this one was planted with a shady area in mind…

The larger the container your space can accommodate the better! Not only will you be able to add more plants, but watering will be easier as well. Having said that, when maintaining large planters, if temperatures are in the 90’s every day and lows don’t get below the 70’s at night (July and August in Birmingham!), be prepared to water every day, even if your planters are in only half day sun. Of course, there are always exceptions…succulents, purslane, portulaca – these are a few plants that can take dry soil and heat, but even they will need water eventually!

Cordyline, fancy leaf geranium, baby tears...morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered sun suit this planting...

Cordyline, fancy leaf geranium, baby tears…morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered sun suit this planting…

Plant choices change weekly during the height of spring and it can be overwhelming…we’re happy to help you come up with the right combinations of plants for your containers if you’re unsure. Just be sure you know how much sun (or not!) they receive and the sizes of your planters,  and we can take it from there.

 

 

Another tip: Flowers aren’t always what adds the most pizazz. There are great foliage choices out there, many that add color with no blooms at all. Some of the most striking planters are those done with just foliage – try it sometime!

Foliage is as interesting as flowers!

Foliage is as interesting as flowers!

A shade planter - all foliage!

A shade planter – all foliage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Kris Blevons

 

Our Seed Racks Are Full…So Much Promise In A Tiny Package!

 It’s always a fun day when the box of seeds arrive, their colorful packages full of promise. So why are people daunted by them? Maybe it’s the preparation of the garden beds? Or perhaps it’s the angst of sowing them just right and at the proper depth? Maybe it’s the thought of having to water them faithfully until tiny green shoots appear on dark soil?

Whatever your reason, this year let it go and give yourself up to their promise and the wonder of watching life begin from a tiny seed to something to eat, cut, or simply enjoy in the garden. There really is no greater feeling of accomplishment than when tiny green sprouts emerge!

Seed PacketsSuccess with spring and summer flower and vegetable seeds does require you to understand the last average frost date in your area. Here, in Birmingham, Alabama, our last average frost date is mid-April.

The directions on a seed packet will tell you when to sow outside, usually a number of days after the last average frost date, or they might tell you to sow the seed directly in the ground and at a certain depth. Seed packets offer a wealth of information!Seed Packet Information

For example, the information on the cucumber packet shown here tells us that sowing outside is RECOMMENDED 1-2 weeks after the last average frost. It tell us to start them inside but that they’re sensitive to root disturbance, so if we do they should be sown in biodegradable pots that will be planted directly into the garden.

It tells us that, if we have successful germination, the seeds should emerge in 5-10 days, how deeply to sow them (1/2″),  how far apart to space them, and when to thin them.

Seed Packet InformationThere’s even a picture of the seedling so you don’t mistake it for a weed!  That’s a lot of information that will help us succeed in our seed planting venture. Some seeds need to be soaked for a length of time to soften their hard seed coating or nicked with a file to help them germinate. Read your package carefully for any specific instructions, and look on the inside for more information as well.

So, armed with the information on the seed packet, we know when to sow; now we need to be sure our garden beds are ready. What do we do to ensure our tiny seeds will come up? Well, the first thing to remember is that seeds need loose soil to  work their way up into the light and for their roots to take hold.

The best way to accomplish this is to loosen the soil with a garden fork. Break apart large clumps and remove any old roots, sticks, or large rocks. Add soil amendments, if necessary, like  PlantTone, cow manure, or topsoil and rake the soil to create an even, level surface to sow your seeds. Look at the directions on the seed packet to tell you how deeply to sow them. Some might only need to be pressed onto  the top of the soil where they’ll have sunlight to germinate.

If you have very fine seed, a good method to ensure even sowing is to mix the tiny seeds with sand before sowing. For larger seeds create a furrow the right depth, set the seed in the furrow at the correct spacing, and gently cover. Finally, don’t forget to label each planting area.

After planting your seeds it’s important to water them with a fine shower of water to moisten the soil. Here’s the important trick: You must keep the seed bed moistened until the seeds begin to come up. Be careful not to dislodge them with a strong spray of water and remember that on very hot days you may need to water twice.

Seedlings need to be thinned once they’re up and growing.  This is the process where you eliminate the weakest so the strongest have room to grow to their full potential. The best way to thin seedlings is to snip the ones you’re removing at soil level with your fingers or a pair of scissors. Don’t pull them as that could disturb the soil too much around those you’re allowing to stay.

All of the above information assumes you are sowing your seeds directly into a garden bed, but in some cases you might want to start them early inside. This requires either a greenhouse or grow lights or, at the very least, a very bright window and some bottom heat to aid in germination.  I remember my Dad putting pots planted with tomato seeds on top of our  warm furnace in Wisconsin. He’d move them into an unheated greenhouse after they’d started growing but while it was still too early to plant them in the ground.

As a general rule, don’t start seeds inside too early! Most annual vegetables can be sown inside roughly 5 weeks before the last average frost date.  Again, follow all the directions on your seed packet and move them outside when the soil is warmed, usually after the last average frost date.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to pick out some seeds!

 

 

 

Edgeworthia

The February Garden, Dreaming Of Spring

Lenten Rose

Lenten rose

Recently on a weekend off I spent a bit of an afternoon doing some necessary chores in the garden and much of the rest simply piddling.

Daylily

Daylily emerging

 

I enjoy observing my plantings, checking buds on shrubs and trees, and scratching through the leaf litter looking for signs of life from perennials I know are there but just not awake yet.

I call these tours of the garden ‘taking a walk.’ When I say that, my husband knows I’ll be gone a while, and, if it’s in the afternoon, he usually has a glass of wine ready for me, knowing I’m not planning on doing any serious work.

Ipheion

First ipheion bloom

 

Viola

Pansy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier in the day I’d cut back the Carex ‘Blue Zinger’ that is slowly beginning to take over the corners of some raised beds where I’d planted it a few years ago.

Carex 'Everillo' in a Container

Carex ‘Everillo’ in a planter…

The Carex family is a tough group of plants, and this one has a beautiful blue hue that I admire. A couple of other carex in my garden include ‘Evergold’, a cream and green variegated selection, and ‘Everillo’, a chartreuse beauty that lights up any shade area its placed in.

 

 

 

Begonia and Carex 'Evergold'

Carex ‘Evergold’ spilling out of a container…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The larger areas of mondo grass will be tackled soon, as February is the month to get all the ornamental grasses cut back to make way for fresh new growth.

Strawberry Begonia - Saxifrage

Saxifrage, strawberry begonia

Some plants hug the ground tightly, as if hanging on for dear life. The strawberry begonias are like that. I know in another month or so though that their delicate white flowers will be reaching for the sky.

Poppy and Snapdragon - Winter

Poppy and Snapdragon behind

 

 

 

This winter saw a few cold snaps, but even so, with this string of very wet days and warmer temperatures, the pansies will hopefully begin to look happier, not hunkered down and miserable but plump and full of buds and blooms.

 

I deadhead the ones that need  it and notice the poppies I’d planted last fall are taking on their characteristic spring fullness as well.

The snapdragons have green growth beginning to show below the brown tops, and there are larkspur seedlings coming up between them too. Sometimes it’s a waiting game, requiring patience to see what will be.

Georgia Blue Veronica

Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’

The tiny ipheion are beginning to bloom, the earliest of my bulbs, their flowering always coinciding with the first of the veronicas, ‘Georgia Blue’.  I make a note to combine these two for an early symphony of blue next year.

Lenten roses and Trillium

Lenten Rose and Trillium

 

 

 

Of course the Lenten roses are blooming, stalwarts of the shade garden, and I diligently pull  seedlings that come up each year too close to a patch of prized trillium.

This year I’ve added some hybrid Lenten roses in beautiful hues with blooms held proudly – they’ll stay in one spot rather than seeding themselves and cavorting through the garden like the others.

 

 

 

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

I turn away and spot the very first bloodroot bloom and immediately go to check another area I know they’ll be, but there’s no sign of them. Microclimates at work!

Sedum ‘Ogon’

Sedum ‘Ogon’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden leaved Sedum makinoi  ‘Ogon’ is filling a small trough planter and looks none the worse for the winter. It’s also in other containers and in the ground as well.

 

 

Sedum and Resurrection Fern - Kris' GardenSedum makinoi grows at the very top of the rock outcrop, happily mingling with resurrection fern. I clamber up the rocks, to check it out.

 

 

 

 

I continue on with my walk and notice the ipheion isn’t blooming quite yet at the base of a bird bath.

IpheionNative azalea buds are full of promise. I love their honeysuckle-like fragrant blooms and can almost smell them, but no, that’s the edgeworthia. It and the daphne are at their best now  and perfume the air. Next month will be the native azalea’s time.

 

 

I make my way back to the house, past the Spiraea ‘Ogon’, in full bloom with it’s tiny white flowers.  I know that froth of white will soon give way to chartreuse, airy foliage, yet another promise of spring on a gray, February day.Spiraea ‘Ogon’

By Kris Blevons

Bromeliad Kokedama

String Gardens – Create Your Own Kokedama

 

Bromeliad KokedamaKokedama:  Kokedama is a Japanese bonsai planting technique, dating back hundreds of years.  These unique hanging gardens are also called string gardens or moss balls and are incredibly easy and fun to create. Almost any plant can be used, so it’s a great project for experimenting  with different plants.

A kokedama garden is created by hanging different plants together in a cluster to create a “garden”. You might choose to group indoor houseplants in a string garden, arrange them outside, or simply have one hanging in a prominent spot.

Plumosa Fern Kokedama

 

If you don’t have a lot of space, these gardens are the perfect solution. They can even be used together seated on a beautiful tray or saucer. Kokedama are a simple, beautiful, and artistic way to display plants inside or out.

Over the years this is the method we’ve come up with for creating these simple creations. It’s a messy process but a lot of fun too.

 

 

Materials needed:

Peat Moss/ Cat Litter Mixture for Kokedama

Peat moss/clay cat litter mix

Peat moss, bonsai soil or clay cat litter (the cheapest, unscented), sphagnum moss,  green sheet moss, garden twine, fishing line, latex gloves, container filled with water – optional: cotton string.

 

Directions for soil mix and sphagnum moss:

In a large container, measure out peat moss and bonsai soil/cat litter.  Use 7 parts peat moss  to 3 parts soil/litter. Add water, mixing well, until the consistency is of soil that can be formed into a ball that will not fall apart.  Set aside. Wearing latex gloves, take a handful of sphagnum moss and moisten it in a container of water; wring out excess.

Plant prep:

Remove as much soil from the rootball of the plant as you can and set aside.

 Assembling your string garden:

  1. Take a handful of the dampened sphagnum moss and wrap it around the roots of the plant. At this point it is optional to wrap the sphagnum with cotton string to secure it. As the plant roots grow through the sphagnum, the cotton string will decompose. I don’t use the cotton string, opting to form the dampened sphagnum around the roots alone.
  2. Now it’s time to form the soil mixture around the sphagnum wrapped plant. Firm the mixture onto it, taking small amounts and pressing firmly. Try to create a round ball. Set aside.Peat Moss/Cat Litter Soil around a Portulacaria Kokedama
  3. Take a piece of green sheet moss large enough to wrap around your string garden. Set aside.
  4. Cut a long piece of garden twine or fishing line  – this will be what you wrap around the ball and secure the moss with.
  5. Wrap the moss around the ball, pulling off excess moss. Center the twine or fishing line under the ball, and begin to wrap it so the moss is secure, then tie off. Cut more if necessary. Wrap it tightly, forming a smooth ball.
  6. Cut 3 pieces of fishing line to hang your string garden and you’re done!

 

Maintaining your string garden:

Water your string garden when the ball begins to feel light, or if the plant begins to wilt. As with any other planting, you will begin to get a feel for the timing of watering. Always try to water before  your plant begins to look stressed. Soak the ball in a bowl of water until it is completely saturated. If it is hanging inside, squeeze excess water out of the moss ball before re-hanging.

 

A few plant choices for your string garden:

Inside:  ivy, pothos, bromeliad,  fittonia, pilea. Outside:  herbs, ajuga, carex, succulents.

Some observations I’ve made on string gardens I’ve planted and maintained:

The plants in a string garden do seem to “bonsai” themselves simply by the virtue of having the roots so constricted. The theory behind the moss ball and the plant becoming “bonsaid” is that as the roots begin to grow out of the moss ball the roots actually “air prune” themselves, thus keeping the plant small.Orchid Kokedama

Obviously, with the peat/bonsai soil mix, the ball will dry out, so keep an eye on it. It may work best to try plants that aren’t too demanding at first  – bromeliads, succulents, and such.

Play around with the types of string/twine wrap you use – I’ve used light weight colored wire as well for a fun “artsy” look. Another idea is to find a natural netting of some sort to wrap around the moss and tie it on with clear fishing line… there are so many creative possibilities. The bottom line? Choose a plant, and have fun!

Want to make one with us? Join us Saturday, March 16th, 2019 at 10:30am for a “make and take” workshop. Give us a call at (205) 870-7542 to reserve your spot.  Fee: $35   You’ll make your own and take it home!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

                                   

                 

 

Calla Lily

The Winter Greenhouse Is Lush With Houseplants and Flowers

Bromeliads, Anthurium and Needle Palm in the GreenhouseIf you’ve never stepped into a lush greenhouse in the middle of winter on a rainy, cold day (or any day for that matter), you’re in for a real treat.

January was a turn the greenhouse upside down month, as pretty much every last thing was moved and rearranged, including one entire area that held an abundance of pots.Benches and Fountain Vignette In the Greenhouse

 

 

 

Anyone who ever said working in a greenhouse was a walk in the park never worked with us! Hard work aside, we’re pleased with the changes and hope you like it as well.

Tacca

Tacca, supervising…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cats took part too, though Tacca was more than happy to settle into a box and watch the goings on, and they all found new spots to take naps!

 

Liam, true to his personality, likes to be center stage, right at the front door where everyone who sees him gives him a pet, and sometimes Tacca joins him there.Tacca and Liam In the Greenhouse

Of course there are beautiful houseplants of all sizes in the greenhouse, and we pay attention to them so they’re at their best when you take them home. We’re all plant junkies too and are always on the lookout for new and different offerings (One for you, one for me…).Houseplants and Pots in the Greenhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature Garden

Haley at work on the miniature garden display…

For everyone who loves tiny, miniature garden magic, Haley has taken over the display, transforming a corner of the greenhouse.

Our fairyland table now has a new backdrop and floating clouds above it. It’s a special spot for the young and the young at heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margaret’s miniature garden…

Margaret was inspired to make her own little garden in a teacup. She had a little gnome; now he lives under a “tree” with a bench nearby if he wants to sit a spell. It is so cute!

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps you have an interesting container you’d like to work a little miniature magic on. They’re so much fun, and we have everything you need to make it happen.Greenhouse

If you’re on social media, we are too! We were discussing the other day that the shop is the perfect spot to take social media pictures, so look for us on FaceBook – Oak Street Garden Shop and Local Market,  Pinterest, and  Instagram too.

 

 

 

 

Houseplant Monstera deliciosaThen, while you’re visiting the shop, take a selfie and tag us (We have the perfect monstera for #monsteramonday !). The enormous pot ours is planted in was rotated, the huge leaves cleaned, and lots of pictures were taken of it. It has been our shop mascot for many years now, and we think it’s worthy of Instagram fame!

Moving the Monstera deliciosa houseplant

Jamie and Allen rotating the monstera…

 

 

 

 

 

Installing the New Heater

Replacing the heater…

 

We all appreciate being warm, and well maintained and reliable heaters are the backbone of any greenhouse. One of ours finally wore out after almost 30 years of use, and while replacing it took the better part of a rainy Saturday, we’re sure the plants (and us)  will feel the difference.Houseplants in the Greenhouse

 

 

One thing is for sure, a lush greenhouse is the perfect place to be on any winter day – among houseplants and orchids, flowers, succulents, and blooming spring bulbs. Take a moment to walk through, you won’t be sorry!

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. Even now, at the age of 86, she has a house filled with plants.

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

 

 

 

 

Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never Garen

A Repurposed Bird Tree For the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Pollinator Garden

Better Late Than Never GardenAs usual, the ‘Better Late than Never’ pollinator garden received very little attention through the holiday season, other than a much needed clean up that included cutting all the dead vines off the two arbors, pulling out spent summer annuals, and giving it a good raking.

It’s been a sleepy little garden since then, though the winter seedlings of larkspur and some bachelor buttons have appeared – along with more than a few weeds.  I’ve only seen a few poppies; I hope they’re just slow to come up this year.

January days at the shop are also filled with mundane tasks – cleaning, completing inventory, and, just like everyone, trying to get rid of the last of the Christmas tree needles that never seem to all quite go away.

In fact, we still had one very large Christmas tree to be disposed of after Christmas. It lay on its side in the nursery, a sad leftover from the holiday season. What a shame it was never decorated or showed off pretty wrapped gifts under its branches, I thought. Contemplating this, I eyed the tree. Then it occurred to me that I could use it in the little garden across the street.

Yes, I’d decorate it for the birds.  It would have a purpose, and I’d feel better about the whole situation. Enlisting Bert’s help to cut the top out of the 9’ tree I ended up with about a 6’ section that he put up on a tree stand for me. It was perfect!Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never Garen

The next day I strung popcorn on raffia, took apart an old scarf I never wore so the yarn could be used for nesting material, and made a list of things to buy for the tree or use from the shop.

There were pinecones that I tied yarn around to hang, smeared with peanut butter, and rolled in bird seed. How many of you did that as a kid and have long forgotten about it? It’s just as messy as I remember…thank goodness for latex gloves!

Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never GarenYarn threaded through cut up pieces of orange slices added more color to the little tree, and pieces of cotton from an old wreath added fluff for their nests. I worked on it  all morning at the nursery, then when it was finished Alyson and I loaded it onto the cart and rolled it to its place of honor in the garden.

I stood there surveying the little tree standing in front of the white fencing, hoping the birds would make their way back to our bare winter garden and discover my gift to them. How nice it would be if the community would add to the little tree too, I thought.

With this in mind I walked across the street to the library and then on to the Chamber of Commerce, asking them to spread the word about the Christmas tree with a new life in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ pollinator garden and that anyone was welcome to participate.Bird Tree in the Better Late Than Never Garen

I’m tickled with our repurposed tree for the birds in the little pollinator garden on the corner and hope you like it too. If you’re walking by, take a minute to admire the Christmas tree that became something even better, the symbol of a good and hopeful way to begin the new year. Just maybe you’ll see some happy feathered friends, too.

By Kris Blevons 

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangements

Making Our Way Through Another Holiday Season

Christmas Trees ArrivingThere hasn’t been much time to write lately, so with this post I hope to catch you up with a bit of what’s been going on at Oak Street Garden Shop.

The day before Thanksgiving the first truckload of Fraser fir Christmas trees arrived, and all hands were on deck to unload and begin setting them up for sale, pick-up, or delivery.Mailbox Decoration

This year the trees (As usual!) were beautiful and full, and they disappeared quickly. Because Thanksgiving was early this year, many wanted to select their tree and begin decorating. We were ready and had the goods!

 

The trees, wreaths, garlands, and other outdoor decorating staples are the first things people want as they begin to ready their homes for the holidays.

It’s a predictable progression of decorating, beginning outside and then moving inside. Our greenhouse flowers and arrangements are in high demand through Holiday Arrangement in A Large Dough Bowl

the middle of the month, and we make sure to have enough of the most beautiful flowers and greenery to work with. Holiday ArrangementsAmaryllis Holiday ArrangementHoliday Orchid ArrangementHoliday Sleigh Arrangement

 

 

 

Holiday ArrangementGifts and centerpieces come last, and we enjoy creating custom pieces for people, either with our containers or theirs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday ArrangementThis post shows some of our work, but if you’re in the area and would like to see what we’re up to, stop in, as our work area is right up front.Amaryllis Holiday Arrangement

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement - Azalea Topiary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Cypress Topiaries Dressed For the Holidays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amaryllis Gift Arrangement

 

 

 

 

We’ll be taking some time off after the Christmas holiday and hope you’re able to do the same. If you’re signed up for our weekly emails on this website, they’ll be monthly January – March and will resume each week beginning  April, 2019. Holiday Hours: Dec. 23-27 Closed;  Dec. 28-29 Open;  Dec. 30 Closed;  Dec 31 Open; Jan 1, 2019  Closed

By Kris Blevons