Can’t Touch This

I got out of my truck at home the other day and stood staring at a planter bed. I said to myself, “I don’t touch this.”

Right away I knew I was in trouble. Why? A song slammed into my head. It was Hammer Time. And yes you guessed it. I have not gotten the song out of my head since. You know the one.

“Do do do do …. do do …. do do. Can’t touch this.”

Do you remember MC Hammer? Bursting on the scene in fresh new kicks and pants. Magic on the mic and oh so hip.

“What other things around me in the garden do I not touch?”

With MC’s song in my head, I took a walk. I was kind of cracking myself up. “Don’t touch this. Can’t touch that. No need to touch that.” As I walked around the garden this song played over and over in my head. So let me apologize for putting MC Hammer “You Can’t Touch This” in your head. Don’t sue me MC. I was a fan back in the day at the roller rink.

I Don’t Touch This

Variegated Agapanthus, Pittosporum Creme de Menthe, Verbena ‘de la Mina’ and Oregano ‘Kent Beauty’. Plant it and don’t touch it. I haven’t touched it in 3 years. Sorry for the trash can in the background. At least it blends with my plants, kinda.

Don’t Touch That

Ok. Once a year I touch that. The blue conifer was a Picea ‘Fat Albert’. I whacked it three years ago. Now I only touch it once a year. I wished I touch it more because I’m usually drinking a beer.

I Don’t Touch This Either
Lomandra ‘Hammer Time’

Everything in this picture I don’t have to touch. I stare at it. I walk by it. I glance occasionally and yes, once a year I do a little nip and tucking. Outside of that, I don’t touch it. Okay, it’s not ‘Hammer Time’, it’s ‘Breeze’, Lomandra ‘Breeze’.

I Forget This

Hakonechloa grass. Goes to dirt in the wintertime and I forget that it’s there. Every year I think, “I got to plant something there” and every year I forget it’s there.

Don’t Need to Touch That

Behind Painter Boy, there’s a redwood tree. Haven’t touched it in years. No need to. No fussing. It’s a groundcover. Yes, a redwood tree that is a groundcover. Let me break it down. It grows across the ground.

Let’s Keep Getting Down
Cedrus atlantica ‘Green Wave’

I don’t touch this. A cedar tree that grows on the ground.

I Trim That
Campanula ‘Birch Hybrid’

I trim it once a year, late winter. Blooming all summer. Goes into the category of “I don’t touch that.”

Wile E. Coyote
Ain’t Touching That

The coyote has a big bite, straight through your gloves.

So often I hear people describe what they think is the perfect plant and believe it or not there are quite a few. You’ve heard me say it. Plants are like pets. Choose the right one for your lifestyle and the care is easy.

Now that you have Hammer Time rolling through your head, gardening is easy. I plant plants I don’t have to touch.

If you’ve been to Maple Rock, it’s maintained for the most part by one person. Planting plants is not rocket science. When you purchase a plant that looks like a puppy, think ahead. Will it grow up to be a high maintenance diva or a plant you don’t touch?

Come to the nursery this weekend, stream “Can’t Touch This” on your cell phone and get 20% off. Let’s see who has Hammer Time stuck in their head.

It’s Robin Time. Join us June 16th for Succulent Extravaganza.

Come meet Robin, Sunset Magazine’s Hammer of Succulents.

Here’s the program. Robin will be talking two times. Once at 10:00 a.m. and once at 1:00 p.m. Make a reservation for breakfast or make a reservation for lunch and then go sit down and listen to Mr. Succulent talk. He wrote a book. It’s a pretty cool one. We’ll have it for sale. Pick one up while they last. It’s truly a beautiful book filled with lots of inspirational ideas.

Did I say you can shop until you drop for succulents? See you on June 16th. Sign up for this free event by clicking here. If the lecture is full, don’t worry. There is standing room and shopping to do and books to buy. We only have so many chairs to set up. That’s all.

It’s Lavender Time. June 9th, 9-3 at Maple Rock Gardens. You can touch that. $10 at the gate and you can pick all the lavender you can take. More details to come. Bring gloves and clippers and a container for your lavender. A picnic lunch if you desire. We’ll provide the lavender and the bees. Don’t worry. They’re collecting pollen. The bees could care less about you.

Coming to Lavender Days? RSVP by clicking here.

It’s Train Time. Rolling down the tracks with new kicks. Train Days is around the corner.

Train Day is a Maple Rock exclusive. Who doesn’t like trains? Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event. All aboard for Train Day.

Big Boy Toy Update
Check Out the Size of My Rebar

There are a million plants out there. Did you ever think there was a redwood that would grow on the ground? Did you ever think you could plant something and actually not have to touch it? My definition of a plant that you don’t have to touch is one that grows slow. It’s one that you need to simply trim here or there to repeat a blooming cycle or touch it lightly once a year to keep it in shape. It’s one it’s not fussy about the conditions necessarily and it won’t hold it against you if you miss a watering cycle or two. But, beware, some of the best plants out there that are mindless are deciduous plants or plants that die back in the winter time, such as a peony. (FYI: The time frame for not touching a plant under California state law is twice a year.)

High-Hand Nursery is full of Hammer plants. Stop by High-Hand Nursery and let us show you Hammer Time plants.

See you at High-Hand Nursery and we’ll do the dance.

Scott

The Standard of Purity

Call me weird. I’ve always admired the box of baking soda in the refrigerator. As a kid I’d open up the refrigerator and there was that bright orange box. I’d stare at the arm and the hammer.

“Wow, that guy’s got muscles”, I would say as I looked down at my arm holding my toy truck.

So, here I am recently cleaning out the refrigerator and I came across the revered orange box from my childhood.

I’m sorry. I don’t know what it is. I just like this label. Maybe it’s the arm and hammer and the baking combination. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is one of those products that goes into a special category. There’s duct tape, baling wire, silly putty and WD40. All these items, along with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda are a must have. Let’s add vinegar, Super Glue and Preparation H to the list. All of which I’m convinced that we would perish from the face of the Earth without them.

All the years I’ve been staring at this box, I never noticed the motto on the box, “The Standard of Purity”. Mmmm. Really? Is it really the standard of purity? So, here we go. You decide if baking soda is the standard of purity.

It can relieve diaper rash. You can soak your tired feet in it. You can make your own deodorant, too. Freshen your breath. Polish your teeth. Clean your toilet. Polish silverware. Unclog drains along with the must have vinegar. Freshen coat closets. But I’m sorry, my coat closet doesn’t stink. We all know it deodorizes litter boxes. Petunia appreciates baking soda. Eliminate the “poo” by making shampoo. Use baking soda as a shampoo and finish off with an apple cider vinegar rinse. There you go, no poo. Warning: This could affect the pH of your scalp, but don’t worry. You’re not growing tomatoes on your head.

Okay. Brace yourself for this one. Eliminate farting. Soaking your beans with water and baking soda? Voila! No farting. I’m a little leery of this one. I’m going to go find a champion farter and test the theory.

Now, for all of you who are grossed out and offended, I apologize. But after all, so far the standard of purity is being upheld.

So, with that being said, let’s move outside. Do you have smelly compost? Use baking soda. But caution. Using too much will slow down the composting. When you’re done cleaning your toilets, go clean your walkways. Two tablespoons of baking soda with a quart of warm water. You can clean your garden furniture, clay pots and bird baths with no harmful residue.

You can kill with baking soda. Not my idea of the standard of purity. But you can get rid of slugs by sprinkling baking soda on them. So dust off your headlamp and go night hunting armed with the orange box. Or dusting baking soda around your plants will deter slugs from eating them. Be careful. Baking soda on the plants’ leaves will burn them. Let’s not stop at slugs.

Check this out. Baking soda is very effective and can kill bugs such as aphids and spider mites. Want the recipe? A teaspoon of baking soda and 1/3 cup of olive oil from the High-Hand Olive Oil Company. Olive oil can be purchased online at the Olive Oil store by clicking here. How’s that for product placement, Web Shaun? But back to the recipe. Add 1 cup of water. Mix the solution in a spray bottle and go to battle. This solution can also be used for black spot on roses and grapes when the grapes first appear.

Have an ant problem? Mix five teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar with an equal amount of baking soda and a bit of water just to make it moist. Don’t use regular sugar. Use confectioners’ sugar. The ants are smart enough to separate the grains of sugar from the baking soda. The powdered sugar, along with the baking soda will be eaten and it will be fatal. Pouring this over an ant hill? Fatal. Adding apple cider vinegar or white vinegar? Fatal. Both ingredients have insecticidal properties that are deadly to ants. I’m kind of afraid to bake with it now. I’m a little freaked.

Still in a killing mood? Weeds or crabgrass growing in the cracks of your sidewalks? Kill them with baking soda. Pore a thick layer onto weeds after moistening them with water. They’ll disappear in a few days.

Remember. Don’t get it onto plants or grass that you want to keep. Too much can kill.

So, after we’ve killed the slugs, bugs and weeds in the garden, let’s use it as a sweetener. Sprinkle baking soda lightly around your tomatoes. Lowering the acidity level makes tomatoes sweeter. No more tart flavor.

Did I tell you it will also discourage pets?

How about beautiful blooms? For flowers that thrive in alkaline soil such as hydrangeas, begonias and geraniums, just dissolve a little in water before giving them a drink and magically and magnificently beautiful blooms will appear.

Let me help solve the mystery as to whether or not your soil is too alkaline. How would I know? I’m a doctor. This is important because it’s the difference between life and death and success and failure. Using baking soda and vinegar to test the pH is so simple.

Collect two samples of soil from two parts of your yard. You’ll also need 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup baking soda. Pour the vinegar into one of your soil samples. If it begins to bubble it’s alkaline meaning your pH level is above 7. If there’s no reaction, take the other sample and pour the baking soda and a half a cup of water into it. Bubbling? That means your pH level is below 7 and your soil is acidic. While you won’t get a specific pH number it will help you zero in on what type of plants will work in your soil. You’ll know what direction you need to go to make it more hospitable for plants.

To decrease the alkalinity add organic matter. To increase the alkalinity add lime. But personally, I don’t know who would want to increase alkalinity. Anybody who does – likes drinking salt water and eating lemons.

A standard of purity? You be the judge, but there you go. Baking soda and your garden.

What’s up next?

SUCCULENT EXTRAVAGANZA

Come meet Robin, Sunset Magazine’s Guru of Succulents.

Here’s the program. Robin will be talking two times. Once at 10:00 a.m. and once at 1:00 p.m. Make a reservation for breakfast or make a reservation for lunch and then go sit down and listen to Mr. Succulent talk. He wrote a book. It’s a pretty cool one. We’ll have it for sale. Pick one up while they last. It’s truly a beautiful book filled with lots of inspirational ideas.

Did I say you can shop until you drop for succulents? See you on June 16th. Sign up for this free event by clicking here.

Hold, hold, hold. We are waiting for Mother Nature to tell us the dates for Lavender Days. It’s coming up. Two weeks? Three weeks? On a Saturday? Maybe. Maybe on a Saturday and a Sunday? Maybe. Mother Nature is not talking to me right now because I’ve been bugging her. I baked her some chocolate chip cookies to get on her good side so she can give me dates for Lavender Days. I’ll let you know if the cookies worked. It’s always worked for me.

I feel the trains vibrating the tracks.

Train Day is a Maple Rock exclusive. Who doesn’t like trains? Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event. All aboard for Train Day.

What does this have to to with gardening, baking soda, Lavender Days and the trains coming down the tracks you ask? Absolutely nothing. I’m a boy. I like big toys. So we drilled a five foot wide hole 20′ into the ground. I just thought all you boys out there would enjoy this big toy. I’ll tell you later what we’re doing. Shhh. It’s a secret.

My standard of purity?

Beautiful High-Hand grown flower baskets. Did you know we grow a lot of our own flowers right here at High Hand Nursery? Come in and see for yourself.

Come see my standard of purity. See you at High-Hand Nursery.

Scott

Bloomtastic and Fluff, Buff and Polish

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve. It’s Bloomtastic time. Four more days left. Saturday, May 12th, we open Maple Rock Gardens.

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to open Maple Rock Gardens, well it takes a team. Most of the year the garden exists. It changes with the seasons. It rolls in and it rolls out of color. It grows. It smiles. But it takes a team. You can only imagine as these four days count down the intensity of anticipation and anxiety. Did we get it right? Is the garden ready to go? Will people enjoy themselves. What if the garden is ugly? What if nobody likes flowers?

We maintain the garden quarterly as its needs come up. But getting ready for tours and events, we polish the garden. We do everything we can to get rid of every weed, rake every path and bring all the timing of the garden to fruition on this one Bloomtastic day.

You can say we’re at the mercy of Nature, but if I can give a shout out to the team behind the scenes, we are more in control than you think.

Three months ago, we walked the garden taking pictures of all the areas that needed to be touched, fluffed and buffed. It was a stack of pictures to fill a binder. Notes were made on each and every picture and the process began.

A week or so later, we walked the garden again taking more pictures, more notes and more areas to fluff and buff and polish.

A month later, we walked the garden again with more pictures, more fluffing, more buffing and more notes.

As the months turn into weeks and the weeks give in to May, the vibration intensifies and the pictures with the notes of what to fluff and buff continue.

Let me introduce you to Nick. Nick has been with me for over two decades. He’s my right hand man. He’s respected, revered and a hard worker. We have watched our children get born and we have watched them graduate college together. Nick is the one who receives the stack of pictures with the notes and sets out to fluff and buff and polish the garden. It’s like a game. He wants to get the pictures done before I give him another stack. No chance. Every night I walk the garden snapping pictures. Every morning he drops his head as I say, “Nick, I have more pictures.”

And with his marching orders he goes out again. It’s a daunting task to polish the garden made harder by me. I want everything to be as perfect as Nature will allow us. Nick questions some of my pictures and notes. People won’t see that, he says. To which I reply, “It kept me up last night so we must do it.”

I’ve been in business for a long time and I’ve been audited more than once. It’s always come out in my favor. In the beginning it used to stress me a lot. Honestly, anymore my heart rate doesn’t need to go up. I’ve come to learn that when it’s over it’ll be over and to stay focused on that day. I’ve also learned to stick the auditor into a non air conditioned room and flood him with a mountain of paperwork, regardless of whether it really has anything to do with the audit or not. Maybe one day I’ll write an email about the tips and tricks of getting through an audit faster and painless.

We look forward to the day when Maple Rock Gardens is fluffed and buffed.

We look forward to the day when we’re down to our last few pictures. Move the table, prune the plant, remove the label. The audit is over.

Join us May 12 at Maple Rock Gardens.

It’s Bloomtastic time. Tour the gardens, listen to live music, enjoy a Mother’s Day mimosa and have lunch under the apple trees. Flowers will be blooming. Come enjoy the noiseless beauty of Maple Rock. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online by clicking here, at the nursery and also at Maple Rock the day of Bloomtastic.

I took a few last pictures while walking the garden last night.

Walking the garden I was reminded of Keith. Keith is a plant rep. He came into the nursery one day and said, “There’s this killer plant you have to have.”

So, I bit. I planted gobs of them along the Farm Walk, probably about five years ago. I wasn’t too impressed. They didn’t grow the first year and died back in the winter time. Half of them didn’t even come back up. What a bust, I thought. So, I put it out of my mind and went on with my life.

What an awesome plant, Amsonia. Drought tolerant, completely idiot proof and it all came up this spring.

Here’s another sleeper in the garden. I always thought this plant had ugly leaves so we shoved it down into the lower, most desolate part of the garden, circling a dead apple tree. This plant thrives.

A few months ago this was an area targeted for a fluff and buff. I forgot they were there. That tells you the impression this plant with the ugly leaves left on me. But after a few years established in the garden it’s a winner in my book. Straight up aces. Salvia “May Night”, you are a friend of mine.

You know I’m not a rose fan. No real reason. Walking through the garden last night I got attacked by a rose. I approached the plant. Very unassuming it was to me. It was a rose.

Ordinary Rose? Nope.

Evidently, not an ordinary rose. It took my hat and taunted me to come get it. I just walked away. I’m not taking the chance.

Come see the not so ordinary rose during Bloomtastic. It’s located around the corner from the kitchen next to the dead apple tree by the plant with the ugly leaves.

SUCCULENT EXTRAVAGANZA

Come meet Robin, Sunset Magazine’s Guru of Succulents.

Here’s the program. Robin will be talking two times. Once at 10:00 a.m. and once at 1:00 p.m. Make a reservation for breakfast or make a reservation for lunch and then go sit down and listen to Mr. Succulent talk. He wrote a book. It’s a pretty cool one. We’ll have it for sale. Pick one up while they last. It’s truly a beautiful book filled with lots of inspirational ideas.

Did I say you can shop until you drop for succulents? See you on June 16th. Sign up for this free event by clicking here.

Lavender Day is coming up. We’ll post the dates on Instagram and Facebook first. Stay tuned.

You can see a sneak peek of the lavender in the Amsonia picture. It’s coming.

Arriving at the station? Train Day.

Train Day is a Maple Rock exclusive. Who doesn’t like trains? Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event. All aboard for Train Day.

Happy Mother’s Day, mothers. Drag your husbands to Maple Rock. There will be beer and the trains will be running. A little something for everybody.

See you Saturday at Bloomtastic.

Scott

Boring Plants and My Flower Issues

A long time ago when I was three years old I was playing with Martha Callahan, the girl next door. Like most adult issues, everything usually extends from a childhood experiences that creates a permanent imprint in our mind connected to a physical or emotional response as we get older.

One day, while playing in a mustard field nearby, Martha commented how beautiful the mustard flowers were and how pretty they smelled.

To which I replied, “That flower right there, Martha?”

Just as these words, left Martha’s mouth. “Yes, Scott. That flower”, I picked up a stick and I whacked it and stomped it on the ground. “Gotcha!”, I said, as I went running through the mustard field swinging my stick like a machete at the flowers.

Thus, the start of my issue with flowers. There are two things a flower has against it with me. Number 1, I’m a boy. A girl wants to smell the flower and admire its beauty. A boy wants to pick up and stick and whack it like a baseball teed up. The second, I’m a boy. I would say the boy/girl ratio in the flower business tips to the girls.

So, as karma would have it after years of whacking mustard plants in the field I was rewarded a career as a boy in the flower business. I still don’t like them though. Ssssh! Don’t tell anybody.

I’ve always looked at flowers as a byproduct of a plant, not the main reason to plant it. Flowers come and go and the plant remains. Foliage color and texture are the elements I design with. Not the flower.

I was walking through the nursery with a customer one day. I walked by a plant and I asked, “What do you think of that one?”

The plant I was referring to grows close to the ground, needs very little water, stays green all year round and, just like the tarantula, no real need to touch it.

She said, “That’s wonderful.”

As we concluded our tour selecting plants for an upcoming project, she asked, “What was that plant? It was wonderful.”

“Juniper”, I said. “It’s a juniper.”

With her face scrunched up, her eyes were like a movie screen flashing back to the ’70’s when red lava rock, fruitless Mulberries and junipers and a wagon wheel adornment was landscaping norm.

I showed her a Barberry. She said, “Boring.”

I showed her a Pittosporum. She said, “Boring.”

I was trying to tell her why these boring plants were wonderful and all the things you can do with them. She wanted nothing to do with that.

She said, “I want a garden with unusual, really beautiful plants I don’t have to touch very often.”

The Juniper, the Pittosporum and the Barberry. Boring.

Be careful what you dismiss as a useless, boring plant. At High-Hand Nursery, nothing is useless. Nothing is boring. We’re a small nursery in the big nursery marketplace. Among the plants, we pick our battles. We can take an ordinary plant and turn it into an extraordinary plant.

Here you go. A Juniper, Pittosporum and a Barberry. I touch these plants once a year and then I forget about them.

The juniper. Calgary Carpet. Low growing, evergreen, drought tolerant, deer resistant and idiot proof.

The pittosporum. This one’s called Creme de Menthe. Never needs trimming, drought tolerant, slow growing, 3′ wide and 2′ tall, deer resistant, and idiot proof.

The barberry. Two varieties here in the picture. Admiration, the lighter, Bagatelle the darker. Drought resistant, presents wonderful fall color, slow growing, 2-1/2′ wide and 1-1/2′ tall, deer resistant and idiot proof.

Three boring plants that aren’t so boring after all, are they? And not a single flower. Hah! I win. Beautiful color without a single flower. You see. It can be done.

A rock and Hakonechloa grass. What else do you need? Not so boring.

A couple years ago I was walking by a rock wall at Maple Rock Gardens. As I was walking by, I noticed a little single green leaf and a little white flower. “Hello, little fella”, I said. “What are you doing here on the side of a rock?” I almost pulled it out of the rock, but thought, “Why not leave you? You’re not hurting anything.”

A few days ago I was walking by that same wall. I actually walked by it and stopped. Turning around I needed to verify the image that was stuck in my head. That little white flower and leaf had turned into something amazing on the side of a rock wall.

Hah! I win again. Beautiful foliage. Contrasting textures in shades of green. A splash of burgundy and not a single flower. The case is closed on this one. While karma put me in the flower business, I’ve still managed to avoid flowers.

Peonies in My Garden

Okay. Father, I have sinned. I have told a lie. I actually like flowers. I’m a boy. I just didn’t want to admit it, but I can’t hold the secret too long.

Texture, foliage and shades of green with a splash of color to greet you in the Spring. Leaving simple, noiseless beauty behind.

An elegant rose backed up by power

These are all photos taken today in my garden. Would you like to see more? Maple Rock Gardens will be open on May 12th between 9am and 3pm.

Saturday, May 12th, join us at Maple Rock Gardens. Tour the gardens, listen to live music, enjoy a Mother’s Day mimosa and have lunch under the apple trees. Flowers will be blooming. Come enjoy the noiseless beauty of Maple Rock. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online by clicking here, at the nursery and also at Maple Rock the day of Bloomtastic.

See you at Maple Rock, May 12th, 9am to 3pm.

Sunset Magazine’s Guru of Succulents, Robin Stockwell, is coming back to High-Hand Nursery.

Succulent Extravaganza is coming to High-Hand June 16th. Registration is free for Robin’s lecture by clicking here. Robin’s completely awesome, beautiful written succulent book will be on sale and you can meet him in person. Join us at the succulent bar and peruse thousands of succulents. Don’t miss out on a great day at High-Hand Nursery.

Keep an eye out for Lavender Days. We’re waiting for Nature to tell us when. Lavender Days will most likely be a pop up event because Nature does set the date. Stay tuned.

Trains, planes and automobiles. Not really, just trains.

The trains are coming down the track. Unlike Amtrak, the trains will be on time. Arriving at the Maple Rock station September 15, 9am and departing Maple Rock station, 3pm sharp. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event. All aboard for Train Day.

Have you toured High-Hand Nursery’s greenhouse lately? Always something new. Always something fresh. Always something colorful.

Calibrachoa, or Million Bells, are not boring, but quite ordinary. Not the Million Bells at High-Hand Nursery. Not the ones we grow. As a boy I have to say I’m not a fan of pink and yellow flowers. However, this one stopped me in my tracks. The picture does not do it justice. Come see “Cabaret Pink Star” for yourself. It’s really cool.

That’s all I’ve got to say about boring plants that aren’t so boring and my journey into the flower world.

See you at Maple Rock Gardens, May 12th from 9am to 3pm.

See you at High-Hand Nursery.

Scott