The natives are restless

24731In this case the natives are insects native to Africa, who have decided that California is the place they ought to be. The Bagrada Bug arrived in Southern California just 6 years ago and already had decides to move north. The experts were hoping the colder winters might kill them off, but they decided to hide in the top layers of soil during winter. Come spring they emerge to eat stuff like "cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, but they don't appear to be picky eaters. They have been known to feed on a wide variety of garden vegetables in California, including green beans, cantaloupe, corn, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and sunflower. Even landscape plants are not immune. Bagrada bugs have been found feeding on ornamental plants in the mustard family, like sweet alyssum, stock and candytuft."24851

From the comment section at The Yolo county extension service, "I am a Master Gardener in LA County, managing a vegetable garden in The City of Bell. Bagrada bug has massively taken over arugula and to a lesser degree, Kale. I tried soapy water spray and pinching but could not keep up with them. Now I vacuum these crops on an almost daily basis with a hand held dust buster. WOW! I get hundreds every day and it is pretty quick to do. I have ordered some stink bug traps and will bait them with alyssum. I think that between the two controls, I MAY be able to grow greens this fall without a huge infestation."  

Becoming indispensable

Yes you can! One of the nicest comments to hear from customers is, "we want you to be here for us". They sometimes preface it with, "we shop here because...we want you to be here for us". While it may not keep you in business, or cause you to become profitable, it is an important first step.

The goal is to find out why you are indispensible to them. Let everything else fall to the wayside. Becoming indispensable to your customers means you provide them with products, or a feeling, that causes them to go out of their way to maintain. There are cheaper places to shop. There might be more convenient places to shop. These thing's don't matter as much when your are becoming indispensable.

They need you, as much as you need them. How are you becoming indispensable (absolutely necessary) to your customers?

So you want to be a farmer?

young-farmer_0"Roy Skeen is a 32-year-old farmer with a degree in history from Yale University. When he graduated in 2004, he moved to New York to work in investment banking, but he found the work unfulfilling.
 
After a trip to the Caribbean, he discovered his true calling: farming.
 'It exposed me to culture that grows food and lives in one place,' he told CNN. 'It was pretty simple, but it was nice and I liked it.'
 
Skeen moved to his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, and now runs his own urban farm and sells produce at the local farmer's market. He says the work is hard but satisfying."

I have been in the botanical trades for over 30 years. The horticulture trade is quite worried about where the new, young gardeners are going to come from. They didn't garden like their parents, and seemed to show no sign of interest in the garden. Many, many nurseries have closed due to the lack of a younger generation of gardeners taking over from the aging baby boomers. 

That all changed a couple of years ago, and has really hit it's stride this year. The number of younger people, especially young families, that come into the nursery has increased from years past. It's all about growing food, which leaves the ornamental side of the trade still hurting, but we take our pleasures where we can. 

I am not sure where all this interest will take us. For now it's a pleasure to be dealing with a whole new group of interested people. They really want to make it work, and are just discovering how hard, but rewarding it can be to grow food. That's an important part of the movement,  putting people back in touch with how much work is involved from farm to table. As far as making a small farm profitable, that's a whole different set of challenges. Still, it's nice to see so many young people heading back to the garden. 

via:
Mother Earth News
http://bit.ly/1mpMBgJ

#smallfarm  
#horticulture  

What diamonds, gold, and The Carob tree have in common.

800px-Arcosu07The carob tree is a landscape tree here in California, but in the Mediterranean region it grown as a food crop. Carob is mildly sweet and is used in powdered, chip, or syrup form as an ingredient in cakes and cookies, and in chocolate substitute. Since chocolate contains theobromine, which is poisonous to some mammals, and carob does not, it is used to make chocolate-flavored treats for dogs. The island of Malta has a liqueur made from carob, Zeppi’s Harruba. I would love to try this someday. 

The carob tree was known in Antiquity and was introduced very early in Greece and is possible indigenous to Crete. During St.John the Baptist's sojourn in the desert he fed himself on the nourishing pods of the carob, along with locusts, and honey.

Ceratonia siliqua's common name, Carob,  alludes to the Greek word "kerátion" literally meaning, a small horn. This is the shape of the carob pod which holds inside the carob seed, used as food. It's this seed that shares it's history with the weight used to measure gems, carat.

The seeds are remarkably uniform in both size and weight, varying within very definite limits. Ceratonia siliqua, the 800px-Ceratonia_siliqua_MHNT.BOT.2011.3.89scientific name of the carob tree, derives from the Greek kerátion, "fruit of the carob" (from keras "horn"), and Latin siliqua "pod, carob." The term "carat", the unit by which precious metal and stone weight is measured, is also derived from the Greek word keráti?n, alluding to an ancient practice of weighing gold and gemstones against the seeds of the carob tree by people in the Middle East. The system was eventually standardized, and one carat was fixed at 0.2 grams. 

In late Roman times, the pure gold coin known as the solidus weighed 24 carat seeds (about 4.5 grams). As a result, the carat also became a measure of purity for gold. Thus 24-carat gold means 100% pure, 12-carat gold means the alloy contains 50% gold. 

Welwitschia, the last of it's kind

sussman_welwitchia_circle_0707_6724_custom-7074ed50f8fdbf2e578811312d47e74161bb6006-s40-c85Found in Namibian desert of Africa, Welwitschia is considered a "living fossil". It has been around for over 200 million years and while all of the other plants from that time have slowly vanished, it has managed to survive in the empty desert of The Namib. The one pictured is estimated to be over 2000 years old. 

The Namib is almost completely uninhabited by humans, except for several small settlements and indigenous pastoral groups. The average annual rainfall is less than 10 mm (0.39 in) of rain. The plant lives by sending a tap root deep underground, and collecting dew formed during the early mornings. 

As they are located in very inhospitable regions of Nambia and Angola, they are not a threatened genus at this time. Plants in Angola are even better protected than those in Namibia, because of the relatively high concentration of landmines in Angola, which keep collectors away.  The plant is featured in the Coat of arms of Namibia right under the shield. Coat_of_arms_of_Namibia.svg

 

 

 

A plant that is able to mimic multiple species

sn-vineAccording to Science Magazine, "the woody vine Boquila trifoliolata... transforms its leaves to copy a variety of host trees. Native to Chile and Argentina, B. trifoliolata is the first plant shown to imitate several hosts. It is a rare quality—known as a mimetic polymorphism—that was previously observed only in butterflies."

There are plants that mimic host species. Some mistletoe species in Australia,  are able to mimic the host, but that's just one species they can mimic. The Boquila can mimic several species. "When the vine climbs onto a tree’s branches, its versatile leaves (inset) can change their size, shape, color, orientation, and even the vein patterns to match the surrounding foliage (middle panel; the red arrow points to the vine, while the blue arrow indicates the host plant). If the vine crosses over to a second tree, it changes, even if the new host leaves are 10 times bigger with a contrasting shape (right panel). The deceit serves as a defense against plant-eating herbivores like weevils and leaf beetles, according the researchers. "

Spring at last

Redbud in bloom at The Vineyard House, Coloma, Ca. On this first day of spring let’s enjoy the changing season. Here in northern California the sun is shining and hope springs eternal. At the nursery we are selling the cool season vegetable starts, flowers, seed starting trays, and lot’s of seed. The number one question this year from our customers is, are your seed free of GMO? Yes they are. I imagine most folks truly don’t understand GMO’s, but the term and “idea” certainly has caught their interest.

We are in drought here in California, and likely won’t see too much relief rain wise in the near future. Our rainy season is fast coming to a close, and after a few years of drier than expected weather, we will likely see more water restrictions. We are currently in a “Stage 2” water alert. The local water authorities are asking us to cut back 30% on our water usage. It’s doable, and an opportunity for us to teach and guide our customers.

I look forward to being a place where people can come to learn more about how to feed their families, and bring beauty into their lives. While the ornamental side of the business has shrunk over the last few years, the edible side had grown exponentially. We seem to be doing better than in years past, and the customer is engaged in their garden like never before.

So it’s it a positive note that stands above the rest this first day of spring. While there will be challenges going forward, we are entering a new age in horticulture. While not all is shinny and bright in the trades, I have never been happier, or more proud to be a nurseryman. Our goal here is to stay small as possible, while making the largest impact in our world. We can change our world more easily, one customer at a time.

Cheers to spring!

Amanita muscari, snails, and Alice in Wonderland.

DSC_4118N “One pill makes you larger, And one pill makes you small, And the ones that mother gives you, Don't do anything at all, Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall. And if you go chasing rabbits, And you know you're going to fall, Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar, Has given you the call, Call Alice, when she was just small.” – Grace Slick, The Great Society.

Seems Alice’s adventures with proportion we’re the results of ingesting Amanita muscaria, yesterdays featured fungus for Google + "Shoorm Staurday”. It is likely one of the most well known yet unrecognized fungus in the world. Mainly noted for being hallucinogenic, a primary result of ingesting this fungus is in distorting the size of perceived objects. This observation is thought to have formed the basis of the effects of eating the mushroom in the 1865 popular story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The mushroom is commonly known as “fly agaric” or “fly amanita” and can be found in conifer and pine forests in North America, The Mediterranean and Central and South America. Amanita muscaria cannot be commercially cultivated, due to its mycorrhizal relationship with the roots of pine trees. While it is considered poisonous there are few cases of death associated with ingesting it, and in many regions it is eaten as a food in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America after being parboiled (this process removes the mushroom's psychoactive substances).

40mushrooms (1)

The history of the mushroom being used as an hallucinogenic be traced back to 1700–1100 BC and and The Rig Veda texts of India where is may have been the active ingredient in Soma. Dead Sea Scrolls scholar John Allegro has proposed that early Christianity sprang form cultic use of the fungus in Second Temple Judaism.

Franco Fabbro, author of "Mushrooms and Snails in Religious Rituals of Early Christians at Aquileia" documents the depiction of Amanita muscaria, in the art of the Christian Basilica of Aquileia in northern Italy. The section of the mosaic floor which displays these mushrooms is found in the oratory of the northern hall, which is the oldest part of the basilica, dating to before 330 AD. An epigraph in the floor itself claims that the oratory was used for religious ceremonies.

Nearby

Another bowl containing snails, probably of the variety Helix cincta. a favored edible species, is found adjacent to the mushrooms. Fabbro hypothesizes that the snails and mushrooms were eaten together. It is possible, however, that snails were allowed to feed on the mushrooms, and then the snails were consumed. This preparation may have effectively reduced or eliminated the undesirable physiological effects of consuming the mushrooms directly. This is more likely than it might sound initially; not only were the Romans well known for snail breeding, but they recognized that what the snails fed upon had a determining effect upon their flavor.

From the mist of time to the present day Amanita muscari has played an important role in man's development. Surprisingly, or not  the Nintendo video game “Super Mario” features the mushroom.  “Power-up”, and Super Mario might say.

"Power Up"

Sources: entheomedia.org wikipedia.com

 

 

The solution is simple.

Inside The Bookery, our last indie bookstore. Saw this tweet the other day. “Dear Toronto bookstores: Please stop closing.”  My reply, “Dear readers in Toronto, and everywhere, buy more books from bookstores BEFORE they go out of business.”

It’s that simple. If you want to preserve your favorite indie bookstore, garden shop, or coffee shop, you've got to quit speaking up after the fact. There we’re numerous tweets following the original plea, most all wishing these bookstores would stop closing. One person even said, “In Germany, it is illegal to sell books at a discount. Our govt has chosen not to intervene”. There you have it, it’s the governments fault.

Quit blaming the government, Wal-mart, or Amazon. The solution is simple. Go to your local bookstore, and buy some books. Repeat. Tweet, Facebook, and Google + about that awesome store BEFORE it closes. Then buy some more books. Stop on the way to the bookstore and buy an espresso at the coffee shop. Pick up some flower or vegetable seeds at the garden shop afterwards. Make it a habit.

Repeat often.

Quit trying so hard

Swiss gardening. This photo of community gardening in Switzerland was taken by Yann Athus-Bertrand. It is of Allotments in the Avanchets estate, Geneva, Suisse (46°12’N, 6°09’E). What a marvelous display of community gardening. This ability to share across borders and languages will continue to shape and change horticulture. 

At times we can find ourselves stuck in an echo chamber based around our shared trade. We talk to, and hear from others in the trade. We use the various social media platforms to "sell" stuff, rather than to learn and enjoy. I believe conversation, and the sharing of ideas is the new advertising. It's not advertising in the traditional sense, which is good, since the traditional way of promoting products and services is dying.

Rather than advertising the new way is to be "out there" enjoying and sharing stuff we love. Have a interest in history? Join some history groups on Google +, or Facebook. Want to broaden your interests from horticulture to the larger world of science? There are people doing stuff there that will blow your mind. Interestingly, it's outside our traditional area of expertise that many great ideas can be found that ultimately will benefit us.  Do it without the intent to build your business, or brand. People are developing an aversion to the "sales pitch" anyway. Conversations and sharing are the way forward for business.

Intentions

Stonehenge in Winter With the New Year come new intentions. The nursery trade is so intertwined with Mother Nature that the best of intentions can sometime be derailed due to changes in nature’s mood. Does our happiness depend on reaching goals? What happens when our intentions are not meet? Often, if we don’t meet our intentions or desires we find ourselves unhappy. If we are a small business the owners or managers mood can affect how the business performs.

Happiness and peace with oneself is a state of being, and should not be dependent on outcomes. If we don’t have “X” amount of money in the bank, or a certain amount of sales by a certain date, a sense of being overwhelmed can cloud what should be a time of rest and relaxation. We need to prepare our minds, bodies, and souls for the upcoming spring season.

While having goals is part of having a business, it’s important to realize that happiness is available for us right here, right now. Rather than worrying about when the “big spenders” will start coming in again, perhaps we should just focus on and enjoy the lady interested in starting some seed for the first time. How about that customer who doesn’t always spend a lot, but does spend it with you? How are things going with them? Maybe write that next Facebook post with the intention of not necessarily selling something. Maybe just sharing something we take for granted, but the customer does not?

Dealing with the business aspect of the trade can be quite taxing at times. Instead let’s focus on the sense of wonder and awe we felt when we first started in this trade. Remember, having good intentions and desires is fine, but real happiness is available for us right here, right now. Once we get into that frame of mind everything else should take care of itself.

Looking back, to look forward.The Gardens of Mission La Purisima.

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, Lompoc, Ca.

The State of California has just ended its driest year on record. Now we will have to make it all up in the next three months. It’s happened before, and in some years way too much, with flooding and landslides included. You have to learn to go with the flow here, so to speak. In the garden businesses you have to plan for all possibilities. I am planning on drought this year, with the hope of enough rain to keep water restrictions to a minimum.

I have always thought we should garden in the style of the early Spanish Missions. These early settlers had to survive with water that fell in and around the mission during the rainy season, January through March. The rest of the year is dry with no rainfall. Every plant in the missions had a reason for being, not just ornamental.

Here is a video done by the late Huell Howser for his show “California Gold”. I sure do miss Huell, and his childlike wonder at all things California. In the video he visits La Purisima Mission, located near Lompoc, California. The video focuses on the gardens inside the mission. The first thing you notice is all the plants had uses beyond the ornamental. Some were native to the area, while many we’re from Mediterranean areas of Europe. Food, oils, soap’s, herbs, wine, medicinal as well as psychedelic uses where all included in the garden. It seems as if it would fit in perfectly in today’s modern California.

With water becoming less reliable every year it would be wise to re-look at some of these old school ways of gardening. What can we learn about how these early settlers and natives managed to survive and thrive using what they grew? I believe the mission style of gardening, with an eye towards modern technology and knowledge, is the way forward in this state of extremes. Enjoy the video on this New Years Day, and we’ll revisit some of the ideas we can use today in future posts.

Stay curious.

Seal Rock, just outside The Golden Gate. As we bid adieu to 2013, the New Year arrives. None of us know what it holds, but I have a couple of ideas that might be worth pursuing. Contribute more to your trade and world. With The Internet it’s easier than ever to express yourself. We need more positive expression. Contribute more time to organizations, both online and off, that you are passionate about. They need your input. Try being a little less angry, and more solution oriented. Don’t segregate people based on religion, politics, or geography.

With the ability to translate pages on The Internet there is no reason to not learn more about how people do things in other areas of the world. Likely they are working out the same challenges we are, in perhaps novel ways. In the horticultural trades we really must start broadening our views to include people and places outside our comfort zones. Inclusion trumps exclusion, to everyone’s benefit. Try translating what you want to say into the reader’s language, and vise-versa. Its fun, and at the very least will get a few laughs. We need more laughter. We need more ideas. It’s a big world out there and sometimes the solutions are waiting in the most surprising of places. You won’t know if you don’t go.

Stay very, very curious. Step outside your business or trade and explore other areas of interest. It will broaden your outlook, and bring a freshness that is often sorely needed after a season of focusing on one area of expertise. That history group, book club, or online yoga class might be just what was needed to reinvigorate you, and bring a fresh outlook. We are bigger than our jobs. Take care of the whole you.

Here’s to a fabulous New Year. Cheers!

Who would want to start gardening after reading this?

The last time I was in England, 1979 There is a “Great British Garden Revival” going on! To help novice gardeners The Telegraph published some timely tips from The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society). It’s titled, “What to do in the garden in December”. Let’s get started looking at it from a novices point of view.

"Feed the birds! Although they benefit from having food put out for them all year round, birds need a high-fat boost to their diet during the winter. Feed regularly so they will not waste vital energy visiting your garden when there is nothing for them.”  It is a new garden so there is not much in it. I don’t want the birds to go hungry and die. Let's pick up some seed later. Next!

Wage war on aphids. Some species remain active in mild winters or on indoor plants. But most overwinter as eggs, often on dormant deciduous fruit trees and bushes. These can be treated with a plant oil winter wash (Growing Success Winter Tree Wash or Vitax Winter Tree Wash).” Good grief! I don’t want dying birds, and I hate war. What are aphids, and how does washing my trees do any good? They seem clean enough. Next!

Christmas trees, are now available. Choose from a cut, container-grown or containerised specimen. Those grown on in pots may only live for a few years – they are not naturally suited to permanent pot cultivation.” Specimens? That sounds like an unpleasant trip to the doctor. I wanted to buy a live Christmas tree to plant in my new garden, but if they only live a few years? I’ll just pick up a dying one at the supermarket. This gardening stuff sure is time consuming, and confusing. There’s more?

“If you want to move established deciduous trees and shrubs to another part of the garden, now is a good time. Choose a calm, dull day to help prevent roots from drying out.” I have to wait for a “dull day”? Why can’t I do it on a beautiful day? Deciduous? Next!

“Check recommended times for pruning trees, shrubs and climbers. Prune ornamental and edible grape vines, hornbeam, walnut and mulberry, and if necessary, maple and birch before Christmas to prevent bleeding from pruning cuts.” Before Christmas!?! How do I know if it's necessary to prune maples and birch? That does it. I am not going to spend a dull day, washing the trees, only to watch them bleed. Meanwhile the birds are falling to the ground because I forgot to feed them? Gardening with “specimens”? No thank you.  I wanted to participate, but this garden revival stuff sounds like a bunch of hard, miserable work. War? You know, my husband wants to pave over the front yard and be done with it. I wonder…

I am sure the folks at The RHS mean well, but if this is what is recommended to the public is it any wonder Britain needs a "garden revival”? I am not picking on The British, as we have the same issues here in The States. Perhaps we just need to quit being so helpful, and trying to include every last thing someone could do? Start with changing the horticultural terms like “containerized specimen”, bleeding trees”, “plant oil winter wash”, "deciduous", and “ornamental”. “Waging war” is a term best left at the garden gate. “Permanent pot cultivation”? Maybe people just wanted to grow a little pot during the summer, not permanently?  To encourage people into the garden, we need to look at how we describe what we do in the garden. Step back, and look at gardening from the novices point of view. Let’s not scare them away with war, specimens, and hungry birds.

 

Great British Garden Revival?

Shakespeare Garden

Did you hear about the new BBC series “Great British Garden Revival”?  Those of us in the garden businesses need to keep each other "cheered up" as we await spring, and a chance for the cash flow to start flowing our way again. So it's off to Britain where everyone in the business of gardening is talking about it! We will have to wait to see what the target audience "the public" thinks later.

The Guardian reports that “A new gardening TV show hit our screens last night, but what did Twitter make of it?” To The Internet! The Telegraph's Ed Cumming declared, “The series is hardly revolutionary, but there was plenty of sensible advice and lovely shots”.  Another Twitter user says, “So enjoyed half of #gardenrevival tonight. It was marred by bad practice and ill conceived dumbing down as are most gardening programmes.”  Everyone has an opinion and is willing to share it. If your interested you can follow the chatter on  Twitter at #gardenrevival.

It seems that even in Britain gardening is less popular than it was in the past. That's why the series is called "The Great British Garden Revival".  According to The BBC, "more and more front and back gardens are paved over - for development, for parking spaces, or because families don’t have the time or inclination to manage these spaces." The first show in the series dealt with "Wildflowers" and "Front Gardens". The wildflower segment seems to have helped "Seedball", a company that promotes, "a simple way to create beautiful native wildflower gardens & help wildlife too." Apparently "98 per cent of wild flower meadows in Britain have been lost". The next segment "Front Gardens", tells us that in" the past, our front gardens were highly valued and we used them to show off our gardening prowess, but sadly over time, front gardens have been paved over for parking and turned into a no-man’s land between the street and front door." Good luck!

As one person on Twitter expressed, “Thanks all for horti tweets this eve, had trouble keeping up w/ them all! At least #gardenrevival has got us all fired up again”. That's what I see as the greatest benefit of the series. It keeps those of us in the trades excited and talking during the off season. Really, I don't think a garden revival is in the cards for Britain, or here for that matter. There are just too many other things for people to do with their time and money. However, if those of us in the trades can reach the enthusiastic few through our passion and social media, it can make a difference. It should be enough to keep those of us still in business, in business. Seeing that passion expressed did put a bounce in my step this cold, bleak morning. As for TV shows about gardening? Not so sure, but we can always go to The Internet to find out.

Are garden books boring?

IMG_2566

I came across an article today in The Guardian titled, “Why are garden books so boring?”  This seems to be of great concern not only in The UK, but here in The US. Is it also of great concern in other countries? Not surprisingly the people most concerned about boring garden books seem to be authors who write about gardening.

One common thread is comparing garden books to cooking books. The author of The Guardian article, Lucy Masters says, “I look at cookery books and the photography is amazing, the layouts are appealing and interesting.” Are there no boring cooking books? Do cooking book authors have these same discussions, but reversed? Wondering when someone else will come out with yet another beautiful picture book of dinning in Tuscany?

Recently I reviewed a garden book which I didn't find boring. The book seemed to have just enough photography, and interesting ideas to suit my tastes. My taste in most things runs a bit counter to the masses so tell me, is this the kind of book we are talking about as being boring?

Take a look at The Amazon top seller list in gardening. Are these books boring? I haven’t read most of them, so I really don’t know. What kinds of books would we expect to see filling this list? Seems they run the gamut from, “Vegetable Literacy, Cooking and Gardening”, “Marijuana Horticulture”, “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life”, “The Flower Recipe Book”, and  a bunch that help people learn to feed themselves. In the case of “Aquaponic Gardening”, it might help feed people in impoverished countries one day. That doesn't seem boring. There are also a bunch of “how to” books on growing your own food.  It seems that if you’re concerned with GMO’s, pesticides, and corporate farms, you might want to know how to do this.

According to Lucy Masters article, nothing refreshing or novel has been published since, “Andy Sturgeon's book Planted came out in 1999. On the front cover it had a man's bald head with a terracotta plant pot and seedling balanced on top. It's was such a striking image. Everything about the photography in that book was refreshing, ground breaking! That was back in 1999.”

Why do we hear so much about the decline of gardening books? What do you think is going on here? Is this just a case of bored garden book authors? How do you find the current selection of gardening books available? What would you like to see more of? Less of?

Monrovia Nursery's latest scheme

monrovia-pots

 Monrovia Nurseries has come up with yet a new scheme they hope independent garden centers (IGC's) will jump on. According to Garden Centers Magazine,“Monrovia Nursery is launching an e-commerce website by mid-January 2014, and consumers will be able to buy plants directly from the company. But Monrovia won’t ship the purchased plants to gardeners’ homes. Instead, the California-based nursery will deliver the plants to participating independent garden centers, which will then distribute them to customers.”

The customer chooses the plants at the Monrovia website. The plants are pre-priced according to what Monrovia feels is an “appropriate retail price”. The plants are then shipped to the local IGC for pick-up by the end customer. According to David Kirby, vice president of sales at Monrovia,“The plants will be delivered directly to the stores, and the garden centers will receive the normal retail markup from the sale. Once consumers purchase the plants, they’ll receive a message indicating that Monrovia will ship them to the local IGC once they have finished growing and are in prime condition. The plants will be delivered between March and May, have a label with the gardener’s name, a thank you tag and a fresh, clean container.”

Of course Monrovia hopes IGC’s will jump on board with this. It was IGC’s who tried to help Monrovia out of a jam just a couple of years ago, but to no avail. Monrovia threatened to go out of business or into the chain and box stores if IGC's didn't buy more plants. Many IGC’s did buy extra plant stock, but to no avail. Turns out Monrovia had been planning on going into the chain stores all along, and used the IGC’s long standing relationship of support to sell a few more plants. Monrovia eventually headed to Home Depot. These day's they sell their plants through Lowe's.  Why wouldn't Monrovia eventually just sell and ship the plants directly to the end customer, keeping all the profit?

I have followed and reported on Monrovia for years. Monrovia is doing exactly what is to be expected these days as the horticultural trade continues to fragment, and shrink. It's the future, and it would be unwise of them not to at least look into it. However, expecting the (IGC) to help them out again? Seems a bit of a reach. How does that saying go? “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”.

Twitter is an odd bird

Come fly with me Twitter is an odd bird. Is there “Twitter etiquette” when it comes to contributing to conversations?  Do you have to be “followed” by someone in the conversation to be included? I would imagine that simply following one or more of the people involved won’t get you through? Not talking about celebrities, but people who are discussing something for which you have knowledge of? Some of them might consider themselves celebrities in the field of horticulture, but not on par with celebrities outside the trades with ten of thousands of followers.

I enjoy some of what is going on there, but find myself wondering when it’s appropriate to weigh in? Having tried a few days ago, only to be left with absolute silence, is the cause for my asking. It’s a bit odd, but then Twitter is an odd bird.

People seem to either love Twitter, or hate it. Little middle ground. Is it great for starting conversations, but terrible for following up? When I post on Twitter the post automatically appears up on my Facebook profile, where it seems more interaction takes place? Is the very nature of the two platforms, one with “friends” (Facebook) the other with “followers" (Twitter) that makes the difference?

Just curious as to what your take on it has been. I also keep hearing about how Google+ is going to be the next "Place to be", but haven't seen that happen. Is that just wishful thinking among'st the Google faithful?

Just enough

Small House in El Dorado

Often I receive well meaning advice on how to attract more readers, fans, or followers. I should measure incoming links, opt in’s, opt out’s, subscribers, etc. Those of us in the horticultural trades feel that if we write about something, it has to be for “someone” that will eventually send money our way (doesn't happen that often, if at all). If we don’t write for monetary gain, “why waste our time?” For some that’s why they write in the first place. The act of writing is not where they find pleasure; it’s the results (monetary gain) of that writing that brings the joy. There is no harm in that, as they are fulfilling their needs, and measuring their success through the pocket book. Got to keep the lights on at the store.

There is a much smaller group of writers who want to write for the joy of writing, and if the money comes that would be nice. They would like to write about things that bring them pleasure, but may be ignored by the masses, or those who respond from advertisements. Someone wishing to write about "native plants", or "16th century gardening", might find themselves disappointed when it seems no one responds.  In an attempt to gain more “likes” or “fans” they alter their writing, saying what they think the audience wants to hear. Sometimes that works, often it doesn't.

We forget that sometimes the stuff we write from the heart does affect people, but in a slower and not so measurable way. We need to cultivate patience. I had this experience just the other day. A reader said that what I wrote “inspired” them to get back into writing about what they love. Great!

You can still write for an audience with the idea of “selling” your products, or business. Maybe you’ll just have to find a place for both methods. Perhaps a different platform or blog will work. However you do it, we need more writing about the stuff you feel passionate about. When you write from the heart you open yourself to finding others who enjoy what you do. That very small niche of people who enjoy what you have written sometimes can change your life. It's the quality of you readership, not the quantity that truly matters.