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Apr 4, 2012

The Value of a Great Garden Center

When we bought our home last May, many people familiar with the place kept telling us "You have no idea what you've got there.", and "Just wait until you see what you have, you just have no idea". We heard this to the point that we got just a little nervous.  Was there a subterranean, 50's era bomb shelter under the stepped lawn? Were there Doomsday Prepper propane tanks underground? Was the septic system a beard for a missile silo? What lurked beneath the pool?

It turned out that there are amazing, mature gardens, that bloom in waves of color all year long from the first of the Forsythia to the last of the Mums. The Forsythia are in full bloom now, despite Big Daddy's attempts to eradicate it along with his personal war on Pachysandra. There are many Daffodils and Tulips (which we didn't know were here) as well as the bulbs that MiniMe, Big Daddy and I planted last year.  Fortunately, they survived The Dog helping us.

In running about our usual life, and going to the Home Depot, we kept passing a small sign that attempted to direct the reader to "Reynolds Farms" just off the beaten path. We didn't give it much thought as we had just bought a house and it needed a lot of stuff, the 2 carts of stuff per Home Depot trip kind of needed.  If you are going to "The Depot" might as well pick up everything, instead of stopping at 2 places, right? Not so much!

We were thrilled to find Reynolds Family Farms last Fall.When we had our chimney lined , the Chimney Dudes had a lot to say about what kind of wood to burn. They had no confidence in me, whatsoever, since I'd lived in SoFlo for so long and had only ever bought either, a couple of those neatly wrapped "one evening" packages of wood or a Duraflame, from the grocery store. I got a lot of lectures: never burn pine, cardboard or wrapping paper, and by the way, get your wood at Reynolds Farms.

It was Autumn, and Big Daddy and I wanted to plant some new trees and shrubs, so we moseyed on down to check the farm out and see what bargains we might find during the upcoming clearance sale. Well, I can tell you, it's a great place. Family owned, family run, family staffed. And they all know what they're doing. And they're not afraid to tell you what to do if you don't know what you are doing, including telling you that you are doing it wrong!

I walked in one day, and explained to the very nice lady behind the counter that 1)we'd lived in the tropics for the last 20 years, 2) we bought a house with mature gardens and we weren't sure we knew everything that was there, 3) We were pretty sure that nothing had been fertilized in ages, 4) we wanted to add certain trees, which I knew the names of , but had no idea what they looked like or what they should look like, and 5) that I needed to "register" for firewood, as per the direction of the Chimney Dudes. 6) Oh, and I need some dirt, 4 yards? Delivered? 7)Oh, and we need to know how to prep our soil for the Blueberry bushes that Big Daddy had on order. The Blueberry bushes which he has dreamed about and tried to grow for 22 years.

She stared at me for a minute. I was a little afraid that her eyes were going to turn into cartoon dollar signs because, really, I'd laid all of my cards on the table. She heaved a big sigh, blinked her eyes and told the others behind the desk "Hold my calls, I'm going to be a while."  Other people might have been insulted but I had realized that I was going to need a complete "re assignment education" due to my change from Gardening Zone 11 to Zone 3 (I think we're a 3, anyway).

Nope just googled "What gardening Zone is my zip code". Turns out we're Zone 6b.

So, she and I set out for a tour of the trees that Big Daddy had written down. There were 3 of the Dwarf Cherries. None of them in great shape - not that I would have known - but my new friend said "I'm not selling you these. Go to another nursery or come back very early next Spring.". Now in my opinion, there is the sign of a good business. They have what you say you want, but because they wouldn't put it in their own garden, they don't want to sell it to you.  Right then, I felt a little more at home in my new community.

The kind lady walked me through the different kinds of  - I think it's sphagnum moss - that we needed to mix into the soil for the blueberry bushes. 2 bales, please! She also told me exactly how Big Daddy should mix it in and how deep he was going to need to go with it.  It sounded to me like a lot more work than Big Daddy was planning on, but these were his Blueberries and he'd waited 22 years for them.

She showed me where the fire wood was kept and explained the program - did I want to prepay 100 pieces then pick it up a few at a time or have it all delivered? Yes please, on account!

We reviewed the fertilizer that we should buy and use right then versus what we should add in the Spring. 2 bags, one of acid loving and one of nitrogen rich, went on the list, as did the 4 yards of dirt, to be delivered.

That was our big purchase, for last year anyway. I returned throughout the winter for firewood, and at Christmas time for some some decorations and small wreaths for the upstairs dormer windows.

Big Daddy and MiniMe spent the winter combing through seed catalogs for their long dreamed of vegetable garden. I understand that there are going to be Soy Beans (edemame), Onions (for pest control), Tomatoes (for me), Cucumbers, Jalapenos, Brussels Sprouts (yum), Corn, Honey Dew Melons, and I think more. Oh, don't forget the Cotton. Yes. Yes, really. I know.  No, I don't know.

The seeds have arrived, and many of them have been planted in small, reconstituted peat pellets, which are then placed in plastic trays with clear plastic tops for a green house effect. Some of them have even sprouted, the Brussels Sprouts and Cotton being in the lead.

I told Big Daddy that he could have 1/2 of the enclosed flower garden for his veggies. He advised me that the enclosed garden is the future site of his dreamed about Green House. The catalogs have begun to arrive.

Big Daddy spent a couple of days "relocating" the plants that I wanted to keep (Any bulbs, all of the Iris, and please move the Lavender), while getting rid of the rest (Oregano, Chives, Sage). Loosening and turning the soil as he went.

Yesterday, Big Daddy presented me with the first of what I'm quite sure will be many lists for Reynolds Farms this year.  Down I went, to gather the rest of the fire wood on our account, 5 bags (to start) of  compost/ peat moss mix, a large bag of fertilizer for the garden (along with directions on how and when to use it), a container of fertilizer for acid loving plants (not sure which ones those are - maybe the Snow Flower Hydrangea we planted last year?), and there was something else... oh, more hay for keeping weeds at bay. I hope. And a bag of fertilizer for my Peonies, whom I can hear screaming for food when I venture closely enough to their bed.

When I arrived at the nursery, I had expected Spring to be in full force. I thought the rows would be bursting with new trees and bushes and that there would be giant flats of plants, ready to go into the ground.  I was mighty surprised to see that the only thing on display was the Pansies!  It was quiet, as I guess garden centers are just before the end of the hard frost and the beginning of the real planting season, and I went into the shop in search of someone to help me.  There was a warm fire burning in the wood stove, and a buzz of activity at the counter with deliveries of dirt and turf being divvied up and assigned to different trucks and drivers.  A young lady offered to help me as I was wondering aimlessly, looking at all of the pretty stuff on display.

I could have gotten lost in all of that pretty stuff.

I asked about the fertilizer and the compost/ peat stuff and the wood and my Peonies who are starving for food (I'm sure they've suffered enough of my love and attention for this year), as well as the hay.

My friend from last year popped up from behind the counter, squinted at me a little, and turned to my garden center guide - "oh," she said "this lady lived in Florida and just moved here. You need to tell her everything and figure out what she's doing before you decide which stuff to give her. She's got Blueberries in one spot and Peonies in another."  She then turned to me and said "Do you want us to put the hay and wood in your car while you get the rest of this stuff?"

Yes, please!!!

So, while I may pay an extra $3 for a container of fertilizer, than I would pay at a "Big Box", the return is priceless. People who value my business, my time and my willingness to learn how to grow again. In every way.

I'm really happy to be home!

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