What’s in Store for Garden Centers in 2012

| 10/7/2011 11:43:36 AM

Tags: Walters Gardens Inc., Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, EarthBox, Brunnera m. 'Jack Frost', vermiculite, garden centers, vegetable gardening, Cindy Murphy,

CindyMurphyBlog.jpgLast week, two of my co-workers, my boss, and I drove up to Grand Rapids at an ungodly hour unfit for man or beast.  Ok, admittedly, the hour is not so early to bother anyone but The Perpetually Late, and that would be me!  (Although I’m usually up by 5am, I had to leave home an hour and a half earlier than I normally do, and it’s always a struggle for me to get out of the house on time.)  We were headed to the last trade show of the season, where we placed the bulk of the garden center’s hardgood orders for next spring.  Despite the ungodly hour, the van was alive with excitement.

Field trip!  Remember as kid the excitement surrounding field trips?  Going on a field trip meant a day away from the classroom, a break from the routine, and a change of scenery.  For me, the enthusiasm never waned. 

Although this last trade show was in late September, August seemed to be the field trip month for us at the nursery.  During the month’s second week, our college intern and I went to Walter’s Gardens, Inc. in Zeeland, Michigan, just a short drive up the road. 

Walters Gardens, Inc., founded in the 1940s, is the largest bare root perennial wholesale grower in the United States.   With 1,500 acres and 500,000 square feet of greenhouses, they grow over 1,5000 perennial varieties, shipping between 15 and 20 million perennial liners to independent garden centers, wholesale growers, and landscape companies each year.  On the grounds are extensive display gardens, open to the public with no appointment necessary (though they do like a phone call beforehand).

Walters Gardens display gardens   

I’ve been to Walters’ display gardens in the past; with nearly 100 new varieties added to Walters’ offerings each year, it’s never the same garden twice.  I’m responsible for ordering perennials for the nursery; seeing how plants grow in a garden helps me choose what I’ll order, and Walters Gardens is one of the suppliers I use.  Things look different in a catalog, and behave different in a garden than they do in pots.  A tour of the display gardens in August after the plants have bore the brunt of all the excessive rain, heat, and humidity this summer threw at them, gave me a good idea of what perennials I’ll place on our fall order for spring delivery; I don’t want to carry something at the nursery that isn’t going to stand up well in customers’ gardens.   

cindy murphy
10/16/2011 7:37:27 PM

I've never been trick-or-treating in the snow, Michelle - not with the girls, or even when I was a kid. Winter jackets are usually needed, (such a drag to cover up your costume with a coat), but never snow boots. It's been close many times though; the closest was the year it snowed Halloween night, but it was after all the ghoulies were safely tucked in bed. This might be the year though, (shudder at the thought); they are forecasting snow for this week. Way too early in my book. Snow by Thanksgiving is nice. Snow on my favoritest of all holidays - pfft!!!

michelle house
10/14/2011 9:58:29 PM

Cindy, you would surprised how many times my kids and my grands have gone trick or treating in the snow. lol.

cindy murphy
10/13/2011 7:10:10 AM

Birdhouses are definitely fun, Stepper. Hubs and Shannon built one this spring; it was a simple thing made from a kit, and painted electric blue “so the birds can find it”, Shannon said when she picked the color. It was a good choice; within two days of hanging it, we watched a sparrow busily taking twigs and grass into the house. Simple is good, but a many compartment birdhouse would be fun too…oooo, like one of those purple martin high-rise birdhouses in the sky. There is the risk, of course, of a colony of fairies moving in, but that might not be such a bad thing either – the strange happenings might include your garden growing like gang-busters, fertilized by fairy dust. Or you could just get an EarthBox. Thanks for perusing, and enjoy your day!

cindy murphy
10/13/2011 5:48:55 AM

Hi, Mary. Plants went through a similar state of confusion here too. Some did particularly well with all the rain and heat, and looked better than ever; others that usually thrive in our typically dry summers seemed to melt away. Sorry about your vegetable garden woes. It was a half-and-half year in my veggie garden: the spinach (both spring and fall crops) was a complete bust, but the lettuce, once it finally kicked in, did great. The onions didn’t like the heavy spring rains. We had many more tomatoes than last year when it never got hot enough for them to ripen, but with all the rain and heat, blight was prevalent this summer. Lots of green beans, though fewer than in years past; the sunflowers flopped, I’m guessing because of weak stems from growing too fast. The potatoes did well, and the blackberry vines exploded with berries. Here’s to a more even keel next summer in the garden!

chris davis
10/11/2011 7:55:46 PM

I was perusing your blog and noticed the ‘Jack Frost’. Well, actually I noticed the picture first and immediately thought of ‘Elephant Ears’ (Caladium hortulanum), but in pictures there is a similarity. Maybe they’re kissing cousins – or photoperiodic reaction cousins. In any case, I’ll be looking for an Earthbox – or the Jr version – come spring. We had a terrible growing season here and it’d be nice to actually have something grow. And a birdhouse. I’ve always thought putting up a birdhouse or two would be fun. But it can’t be too fancy or have too many compartments. When they are too homey and have enough rooms, the darned fairies move in and really strange things start happening. Oh, and Tink says “Hi.”

mary carton
10/11/2011 7:47:07 PM

After going from winter to summer here in Alabama, and from 100 to 74 as highs in 2 days, the plants are confused here. My Pink Lady apple trees are in bloom now. Gardening this year was a big disappointment. I planted cucs 3 times, and the sun cooked them as they came up. I stopped after planting tomatoes. One of my heirloom seeds I bought was supposed to be a yellow brandywine, but was some sort of large tasteless cherry tomatoes. Those I pulled up. I had a couple of Cherokee Purples left and did get a few tomatoes from them until we had a couple of heavy rains followed by weeks with out rain. I had a nice watermelon patch that must have floated off vines and all. After the last two years of horrible gardening weather, I'm looking for a nice year next year.

cindy murphy
10/10/2011 7:36:04 AM

Wow, Michelle – slush and sleet already?! We had a few mornings that I had to scrape the windshield of the car, but there hasn’t been a hard, killing frost yet. It’s gotten down to the thirties at night, with a high of fifties during the day, which had me worried that we were going to have a short fall and early winter. This past week has been absolutely, positively gorgeous though. It’s shorts weather – in October!!! Dang, I love fall!!! Hope your slushy, sleety day was just a freak one-time October thing. Hate to think your winter has already arrived…and that your grands will be doing the Halloween thing wearing parkas and snow shoes! Hugs back attcha!

cindy murphy
10/10/2011 7:22:06 AM

Hi, Dave. Yes, you’re right – this year has been a particularly hard one for many plants, with some of the effects just showing up now. We had so much rain – the rainiest summer on record, I heard. A lot of things suffered from the excessive rainfall coupled with extreme heat, (it was also the hottest July on record here). Good deal though, on your patio plants doing so well! From the pictures on your blog, they looked like they thrived under your attentive care. Botanical gardens are great places to visit, and I hope you get a chance to get out to the one near you. You might want to check their schedule – many of them have a number of activities and programs for children all year long. I’d bet there is something your grandson would enjoy this fall. This is the best time of the year, in my opinion, to spend time outdoors! Thanks for stopping in, and enjoy your day.

michelle house
10/9/2011 8:33:28 PM

Field trip!!, lol, even if it was a day of training spent in a classroom, it felt like a field day.:) It sounds absolutely lovely, Cindy, But since I live in semi arid place, those plants would just not survive. :( But the fairy gardens? lol, not for me, but it does sound enchanting. We got our first slush/hail storm today, so I am pretty sure things are gonna die off now. But there is always next year. Hugs Michelle

nebraska dave
10/7/2011 10:27:16 PM

Cindy, I'm glad that you had the time to send out another post. Fall seems to always be just as busy as the spring. I would expect that the days spent at the trade shows are a good time spent away from the hustle and bustle of the nursery. This year has been a long hard year for plants of all kinds especially the garden plants. I'm already into planning next years garden and flowers for the Poor Man's Patio. This year was an absolute success for the arbor on the patio. Impatiens and Begonias virtually exploded with color all summer long. It's going to be hard to beat this years display. I set up a automatic watering system and gave the flowers a shot of miracle grow every three weeks. It's not too organic but I figure I'm not eating them so what the hey. Next year I may try Jack Frost.

nebraska dave
10/7/2011 10:26:32 PM

The Walter's gardens would be a cool place to visit. We have a place called Lauritzen Gardens. It's a botanical garden that's 113 acres. They have seven huge green houses that grow all their plants for the gardens. It has water falls, streams, ponds, and wet lands which display all sorts of different flowers. The best part is it's run mostly by volunteers so the cost of unlimited access membership is $20. One a week in the summer live jazz bands play on an outside area with food and drink allowed. I'm not sure why I haven't bought a yearly membership but I've always had good intentions. There's an inside area that is decorated with flowers and plants for every season and holiday. It's really a quality place. Have a great fall nursery buying season.

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!