April 25, 2010

It's a plot!

Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day and National Public Gardens Day – with a healthy crop of special events – have the common aim of getting YOU out to see what's blooming.

A couple of new events are designed to get you out looking at plants -- and maybe even buying a few.

click image to enlarge

Peter and Claudia Risbara of Risbara’s Greenhouse in Portland prune geraniums last week. The Risbaras are celebrating Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day as well as their 20th anniversary of being in business. Risbara’s is just off outer Forest Avenue.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Claudia and Peter Risbara of Risbara’s in Portland have a number of events planned for Saturday. About 30 garden centers around Maine will be participating in Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day with special events, deals and more.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer


JUST A reminder:

TRADITIONALLY, HOMEOWNERS want to fertilize their lawn in the spring. The modern method, recommended by Yardscaping advocates, is to fertilize in the fall, if at all.

YARDSCAPERS and the Maine Board of Pesticide Control say a lawn that is 10 years old or older and on which the grass clippings are mulched and left on the lawn needs no fertilizer at all.

JESSE O'BRIEN, who owns a turf farm in Kennebunk, recommends fertilizing only in the fall. So, skip the spring feeding.

The Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day is being held Saturday at greenhouses and garden centers all across the state. It was created over coffee during the Maine Agriculture Show in Augusta in January.

Mary Lou Hoskins of Greencare Interior Landscapes in Hermon (just south of Bangor) came up with the idea, and it spread quickly.

"I made the mistake of opening my mouth," Hoskins said, "and they said fine, go ahead and do it."

The hardest part was setting a date. People didn't want it to be too early into April, because most years it could be cold and snowy.

And they didn't want it to conflict with Mother's Day and Memorial Day, when nurseries and greenhouses are busy every year.

"It is really just to promote the green industry and independent garden centers," Hoskins said. "Maine Maple Sunday promotes syrup producers, and open farm days do that for farms. But there really wasn't anything for the green business, and that is a fairly big chunk of agricultural business in this state."

Of the 30 or so participating garden centers, a lot of them are in central Maine. Hoskins said that is probably because she is active in the Mid-Maine Greenhouse Growers Association, and its members got behind the project.

Southern Maine participants include Risbara's Greenhouse in Portland; Plainview Farm in North Yarmouth; Estabrook's in Yarmouth, Scarborough and Kennebunk; Steeplebrush Farm Herbs in Limington; JoAnn's Flowers in Parsonsfield and Moose Crossing Garden Center in Waldoboro.

Hoskins thinks more nurseries and garden centers will get involved in the future.

"We all love growing plants. It's not just to make money," she said. "It's a passion. But we don't mind making money, too."

The events are going to be varied, with participating businesses determining their own offerings.

"A couple different places are going to do May baskets because it is May 1, and they are going to try to revive that tradition, especially for kids. Some places are giving away pansies for kids," Hoskins said.

"Longfellow's in Manchester is setting up a line so people can see how their seedlings are produced. I'm going to have a popcorn machine, have the soil testing lab at UMaine set up and test people's soil. That's real easy, because I am married to the guy."

That would be Bruce Hoskins, coordinator of the soil testing program at the Analytical Soil Testing Lab at Orono.

Claudia Risbara of Risbara's Greenhouse just off outer Forest Avenue said it's also their 20th anniversary in business, so they will have some promotions to celebrate, including 20 percent off all plants and shrubs. At 5 p.m. Saturday, Risbara's will give away 20 gift certificates worth $20 each.

But to a great extent, Risbara just wants to get people to the nursery to see what they have in bloom.

"We have this white ornamental cherry tree in bloom now, and no one is here to see it," she said. "And magnolias. There are so many plants in bloom in early spring, and if people don't come out, they miss them. And whatever we can do to get the public to notice us is good."


Donna Palmer of Plainview Farms said they are going to have a tomato tasting from their first harvest of tomatoes from the greenhouse this season.

"And we are going to have Kelly Roth from Vitamin Sea Seaweed talking about their fertilizer from the Atlantic," Palmer said. "People are really interested in learning about organic gardening."

(Continued on page 2)

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