Saturday, November 6, 2010

Festive Winter Color

Yuletide Camellias are little known holiday bloomers that pack a real festive punch! Reaching heights of seven to ten feet, these evergreen shrubs can be pruned to satisfy any landscape. I'm personally impressed by their brave show of color that begins in late October and continues unashamedly through the holiday season! You can count on these fresh sprigs of bright red blooms with contrasting yellow faces cheering my dinner guests. They produce such an impressive profusion of buds, you'll never miss clipping a few to accent a centerpiece.

Camellias come in a variety of colors, bloom times, bloom season and sizes. As evergreen as can be, the Yuletide variety is one my personal favorites as it best suits hedging and screening, not to mention all of those beautiful flowers! Where else can you find such a large screening shrub with a dazzling display when everything else is going dormant? However, the most important thing to remember when planting any camellia is to keep them happy in the shade! Too much sun, heat and little water means instant leaf burn, petal wilt and death for camellias!

All in all, I'm itching with anticipation to put one of these fall and winter blooming camellias on my wish list. My birthday is in January after all... Now all I have to do is decide which one! White, pink, red, variegated stripes... But Yuletide is definitely high on the list! Visit our site for more information on Yuletide, as well as other blooming camellias!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Landscaping with Loropetalum

When it comes to Loropetalum, I tend to get one of three different questions from my customers.

1) Do you have that purple plant from the Southern Living magazines?
2) I need something evergreen, with color for full sun that blooms! Got any ideas?
3) What the heck is that dark purple bush with pink flowers on it in your parking lot? It's awesome!

Normally, before they're through the first three words I'm leading them towards the Loropetalums on the lot. Commonly known as Chinese Fringe Flower, this unique bloomer begins flowering in spring and will continue through summer until frost. However, with the extremely hot and dry conditions we experienced here in Richmond this past summer, the fuchsia blooms tend to wilt away and return when temperatures cool in September. As a new homeowner and beginning landscaper, I am looking forward to incorporating this semi-evergreen in my design!

Recently, horticulturists have manipulated the habit of this shrub to create a variety of versatile applications. Burgundy Loropetalum is appropriate as a backdrop or large specimen piece as it grows five to six feet in diameter! However, the Purple Pixie variety doesn't get more than 24 inches tall and spreads to five feet wide making it a perfect ground cover! I love to see a sassy purple Loropetalum drooping leisurely in a container with bright yellow pansies too!

Learn more about zone, fertilizer needs and much more from our site at Strange's Garden Center.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

To Seed or Not To Seed

Ryan's (@rsmartt) gardening saga continues.....
To Seed or not To Seed?
Every year, before I start my vegetable garden, I ask myself….should I use seeds or buy existing plants?
I see pros and cons to both.
When you use already grown plants, it’s as easy as digging a hole, planting them outdoors and taking care of them. However, it’s more expensive…and I personally feel like it’s cheating. I mean, all the hard work was already done for you, right?
When you use seeds, there’s an inexplicable pleasure in watching something grow out of the ground, and then enjoying the fruits of your labor. However, it’s much more work. Sometimes you have to start indoors (which could become a problem when you have a curious 3-year-old like I do) and transfer them outside. Plus the elements (and the critters) can be tough on a tiny sprout.
This year, I’ve done both. My tomatoes and peppers were plants when I bought them…my spicy greens and lima beans were seeds.
I also just planted some carrot and beet seeds I purchased at Strange’s. However, they’re not quite ready to pop out of the ground and deal with this Richmond heat wave.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Strange's In July

Take a tour of our Garden Center and Greenhouse in July.

Create your own video slideshow at

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Everybody’s Got a Hungry Plant

Happy 4th of July- While you're enjoying your yummy hot dogs and hamburgers- Think about what Ryan Smartt (@rsmartt) has to say about hungry plants!!

Everybody’s Got a Hungry Plant
Food. We all need it. Some of us live to eat. Some of us eat to live. But did you know plants need food, too? I didn’t until recently.
In fact, I stumbled across this terrifically awesome blog post. It’s a blog for kids, but I consider myself a 7-year-old when it comes to gardening. So I personally thought it was useful information. Mostly because they mentioned pee and poo. (My wife loves how mature I can be. And you know what rhymes with mature, honey? Manure!)
But as I was saying, plants need food, a.k.a. nitrogen. Last year, Strange’s recommended I use plant food that was made out of fish…stuff. It worked well. But I only planted tomatoes and hot peppers, which I typically have success growing anyway. This year however, since I’m participating in Garden Wars, I have to step my game up and expand what I’m growing. So, I went to Strange’s last week and they recommended Foxfarm natural and organic liquid plant food, which is “made from earthworm castings and bat guano”. Which I believe is a fancy name for worm and bat poo. Delicious worm and bat poo.
I plan on using it every week, or at least every other week. We’ll see what happens!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Passing the Knowledge to the Next Generation

Ryan Smartt tells us about gardening with his family!

Passing the Knowledge to the Next Generation
We have a three-year-old. And Lyla wants to do EVERYTHING my wife and I do. There are some obvious things I won’t let her do (mow the lawn, drive our car, do our taxes) but every now and then, I definitely have to say YES when she wants to help.
A perfect example is working in the garden. Lyla’s at the age now where I’m comfortable allowing her to try a few things on her own – and then I’ll show her the correct way to do it. Like watering the plants. The first couple of tries, she simply poured as much water wherever she wanted. But after showing her how to use her little blue watering bucket to slowly pour the water near the roots of the plant…she got it!
Picking tomatoes was definitely a problem last year. If there was a tomato – ripe or unripe – she was going to pick it. This year, however, Lyla knows not to pick it until it’s red (or a color closer to red than green.) So far so good.
When I grew up in Kansas, my parents had a vegetable garden in our backyard every summer (tomatoes and peppers, of course!) And they taught me a few tricks of the trade. So when I share the gardening experience with my daughter, I feel like I’m passing something on to the next generation. And hopefully, in about 30 years, she’ll do the same with her kids. (But as I’ve said before, she’s not allowed to date until she’s at least 30.)
Check out this week’s Garden Wars! And feel free to vote me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should We Talk About The Weather?

And the saga of Ryan Smartt's (@rsmartt) garden continues!

Should We Talk About the Weather?
While summer is the best time of year to grow vegetables, it can also present some challenges. The biggest challenge for me = weather (specifically rain, or lack thereof).
Most of what I grow needs plenty of water (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers) and unfortunately, Richmond seems to always have very inconsistent levels of rain between June and September.
As a result of the mild droughts we’ve had in recent years, I have become quite clever in some of my watering techniques. For example, occasionally after dinner, I recycle the leftover water I use when I boil vegetables. It not only helps conserve water, but there are lots of good nutrients in it. Also, my daughter LOVES playing with daddy in our baby-pool on the weekends, and I use what’s left of the water in the pool when we’re done to water our plants.
In addition, we vacation from time-to-time during the summer, which also presents a problem for the garden. Essentially, I have to roll the dice and hope it rains while we’re gone (which could be anywhere from 2 to 10 days). And with the inconsistency of rain this time of year, we never know what will happen.
So, anyone interested in watering our yard while we’re gone in a few weeks?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Say Tomato... I say... More Tomatoes!

The latest installment of garden goodness from Ryan Smartt!

You Say Tomato…I Say…More Tomatoes!
Like I said in my blog last week, I am not an expert gardener. However, throughout my vegetable-growing trials and tribulations the past few years, I have had one consistently successful crop: tomatoes. Whether I’ve started indoors with seeds, or transplanted store-bought vines directly into the ground, I always have lots of tomatoes. Of all shapes and sizes. In fact, last year, my tomato plants produced well into November. Which is perfect because my three year-old daughter devours tomatoes any time, any place.
Are my experiences with tomatoes blind luck? What’s going on here? Is there something about the Virginia soil? We all know about Hanover tomatoes, so maybe this region has magical tomato-producing goodness in the ground. Whatever the case, from the looks of things, I plan to have another strong tomato season. (Hopefully into November again.) Check out the latest edition of Garden Wars to see for yourself.
Have you had luck growing tomatoes? Why or why not? Are there any specific tomato plant foods you use? Do you have any theories (or facts) about the success of tomatoes in central Virginia?
Share your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Thumb is a Mild Shade of Green- From our friend Ryan

Our friend Ryan Smartt ( @rsmartt to some of you) is going to be guest blogging his garden experience this season. Here is his first entry!

June 2, 2010
My Thumb is a Mild Shade of Green
I am not an expert gardener. And never will be. So if you’re reading this blog thinking you’ll get expert advice on gardening, well, you’ve come to the wrong place.
But wait, before you leave…
What I will try to do, however, is share with you some of my experiences this summer as I participate in the first-ever RVANews “Garden Wars”. I somehow got roped into this competition a few weeks ago via Twitter with a couple of friends/fellow-amateur-gardeners (although, they probably think otherwise). It started as some good, old-fashioned smack-talk, but has turned into an international sensation. Actually, a few of our friends/family in Richmond find it entertaining, anyway.
Gardening has been a hobby of mine for the past five or six years, but I now garden every day, and it’s something I truly want to get better at doing. So, what am I growing? I’ve got three types of tomatoes, two types of hot peppers, green pepper, cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, eggplant, a mix of spicy greens, and several herbs: rosemary, parsley, and thyme.
As Garden Wars evolves, each week I promise to share with you what I’ve done, what I’ve learned, and of course, give you the chance to respond. Like I said, I’m not an expert and could use all the help I can get. My thumb isn’t green yet. It’s just a mild shade of green.
Finally, I’d like to thank my friends at Strange’s in Richmond for giving me this opportunity. Full disclosure: I purchased all of my vegetable and herb plants and seeds there this year.

Tune in next week to see how Ryan's garden is growing, and check out the guys over at Garden Wars too- There is some nifty stuff going on here in Richmond!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening is one of the latest trends in gardening. Here at Strange's, we've got one set up for you to see how they work! The basic theory behind square foot gardening is that you have a raised bed that is 4 foot by 4 foot. It is divided into 16 sections, which are used for different crops. One square may hold just a single tomato plant where as the next square could hold an assortment of herbs. It's dependant on the size of the plant. Place climbing plants at the back of the square foot garden and attach a trellis or net. Take a look at how our square foot garden is doing!

Squash starting to grow!

Baby Bell Peppers!

Baby Cucumber.

Our square foot garden. You can see it take up very little space!

Close up shows you the separation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Did you know that St. Valentine was a real person?

Around 270 AD, during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, a decree was passed over his lands that all men were to remain single and marriage was illegal! He thought that this would create a strong army operating under the belief that married men made for poor soldiers! A rebel priest, St. Valentine himself, broke the law to secretly bless covert unions and wed lovers who wished to follow their religious traditions. When he was caught, Claudius threw him in jail and on the eve of his execution, St. Valentine wrote the first valentine love note to the daughter of his jailer no less and signed it: "From your Valentine"

Follow in St. Valentine's tradition and stop by your local Strange's to pick up a Valentine's Day arrangement for your sweetheart or visit our site to place an order.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Did you know that bees can be found on every continent in the world, except Antarctica? There are over twenty thousand species of bees all over the globe and they live together in large families that work together all of the time. A honey bee hive can contain up to 40,000 bees at their annual peak, which occurs in the spring, but usually have fewer. Bees play an important role in pollinating flower plants and without them, many vegetative species would be unable to produce a harvest or delicate blooms.

Stop by our Strange's West Broad location on Saturday, Jan. 23rd to visit Eva from the Ashland Bee Keepers for a special class on Bee Keeping and the importance of bees. This free seminar begins at 11am. Don't miss this great opportunity to learn more about these unique creatures that are extremely vital to our ecosystem!