Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2013 Tomato Tasting Results!

Hi all you tomato-lovers out there!

This past Saturday we hosted our Annual Tomato Tasting at our West Broad Street Location!

Our tomato-enthusiasts (both guests and team members alike!) had fun sampling almost 30 heirloom varieties of tomatoes that we've been growing organically here at our garden center this summer!

In addition to enjoying the samples, we asked our enthusiasts to help us choose Richmond's Favorite Tomato for 2013. The results have been tabulated, and we're excited to share the winners!

In Third place, we have: 'Prudens Purple'

This beauty is praised for it's taste and relatively crack-resistant nature. It's related to the Brandywine variety, but produces fruit more quickly than Brandywine. It's fruit typically weighs about 1 pound and has a pretty, pinkish-purple skin. If you're looking for a plump tomato to grow (or eat!) this is a great choice!

Coming in Second place, we've got: 'Brandywine'

Brandywine is touted as the darling of heirloom tomatoes. Dating back to the mid-1880's this long-time favorite is a sweet, beefsteak-shaped tomato. It is late to ripen but, in our opinion, is worth the wait!

And now, the results you've been waiting for...

Richmond's Favorite Tomato of 2013 is: 'Super Snow White'

This prized tomato is unique in its appearance and generous in its flavor! About the size of a ping pong ball, this ivory-colored tomato is both sweet to look at and to taste! It's easy to grow and produces fruit fairly quickly. Great for topping salads and decorating dishes, Super Snow White is a great heirloom variety to grow!

There were several other favorite varieties that just missed the official winner's circle status! We'll call them 
the honorable mentions: 

Kentucky Beefsteak
Speckled Roma
Kellogg's Breakfast
Super Steak
Black Cherry
Beefsteak Rocky Top
Cherokee Purple

A big 'Thank You' to all of you who lent your discerning palate this weekend to Richmond's Annual Tomato Tasting! We're thrilled with the results and we highly encourage all Richmonders to try growing one of these tasty tomatoes next spring! We'll be ordering seeds of all of the heirloom varieties that you preferred so that you can try growing your own next year!

Happy [Tomato] Gardening!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vertical Gardening- Indoor Edition

Hi plant lovers!

Has anyone out there seen the beautiful 'living walls' that have been popular over the last few years? So pretty! 

While these lush indoor green spaces have starred in many swanky, newly renovated spaces, it's easy to bring the look into your home or office!

We've seen some beautiful examples of interior living walls floating around Pinterest, like this:

and this:

and this:

Swoon-worthy, right? But don't be intimidated by the scale of these beautiful living walls! You can create your own vertical green space on a smaller, very managable scale! Here are some fun examples we found: 

We love the succulents for their unique shapes and soft colors, and a kitchen lettuce garden is such a great idea! Look at how compact it is; fresh salad everyday for a few feet of floor is our idea of a good use of space!

We've been experimenting with our own living wall for a few months now and have been really pleased with the results! It's about 1' wide and 2.5' tall and makes a big impact with the combination of color and texture in showcases. What do you think?:

The frame is sleek and decorative while the back (the side that is hidden) is specially designed to prevent water from damaging the wall space behind. (A very important quality if you are hanging your living wall on drywall!)

If you're interested in vertical gardens, we highly encourage you to get started! They're a fun, creative way to decorate your indoor space, and they provide great clean air benefits, too! (In case you missed that post

Happy [vertical] gardening!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hydrangeas- A Calendar of Bloom Times

One of the most recognized, appreciated flowers of all time is the hydrangea- hands down!

The hydrangea's fame is not just about popularity, though- this beauty has earned it's spot on the proverbial Plant A-List! How? Because its got great qualities that make it oh-so-easy-to-love: it's beautiful, it comes in many varieties and colors, it's easy to grow and tend, it makes a great cut flower, it plays nicely with other plants, and it is the quintessential summer flower. 

These wonderful traits aside, one of the best things about hydrangeas is that different varieties have different bloom times, allowing for a whole summer filled with hydrangea blooms!

For those of you who can't get enough of those soft, fluffy flowers,we've put together this handy 'calendar' of bloom times of our favorite shrub-habit hydrangeas;  with this tool, you can quickly see which species are blooming at what time of the season so you can plan a landscape that features hydrangeas in every month!

Calendar of Hydrangea Blooms 
by Hydrangea Variety
*bloom times listed below are estimates for the Central Virginia area; bloom time can vary year-to-year based on weather variations. 


Hydrangea macrophylla: 
Blooms Mid-May through Mid-June
*some cultivars re-bloom in the Fall

Hydrangea macrophylla is the most common type of hydrangea-this species known for its big, mophead blooms that are great as cut flower. Bloom colors change as the flower matures, beginning with a creamy yellow, then turning to blue and finally to greenish rose as the season progresses. Additionally, soil acidity (and available aluminum in the soil) affects flower color; in short, soil with low pH will produce bluer flowers while soil with higher pH produces pinker flowers. 
Some common cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla are 'Nikko Blue' and 'Endless Summer'


Hydrangea quercifolia
Blooms Mid-May through Mid-June

Hydrangea quercifolia is a great native hydrangea! What makes it so wonderful? For one, it flowers in deep shade, which is hard to find. Secondly, (though having nothing to do with flowering) it has oak-shaped leaves that turn all shades of deep red in the fall! The flowers on this beaut are white and cone-shaped.

Hydrangea arborescens
Blooms mid-June
On the whole, Hydrangea arborescens blooms begin as large white globes that mature to a green color. Some popular (and stunningly beautiful!) cultivars are 'Annabelle' and 'Grandiflora'

July & August

Hydrangea paniculata
Blooms mid-July to mid-August (sometimes into September)

Hydrangea paniculata blooms later in the season than most other hydrangeas, which is great for hydrangea-lovers longing to enjoy those beautiful blooms until Fall. The blooms on Hydrangea paniculata are more conical in shape, and begin as white flowers that mature to a pinkish hue. 
Some common cultivars are 'Limelight' (pictured) 'Pee Wee' and 'Little Lamb'

*Don't forget that some re-blooming cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla bloom into the fall!

We hope this guide has been helpful (Or at least beautiful to look at!) 

Happy [Hydrangea] Gardening!

Many thanks to Michael Dirr and his book Hydrangeas for American Gardeners for helpful information about hydrangeas!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An Easy Way to Make Your Home and Office Healthy!

It's no secret that plants are great for the environment. Trees and other plants help reduce runoff and erosion, they absorb carbon, and provide shade to reduce energy bills. Three cheers for the wonderful work plants do for the great outdoors!

But what about indoor plants!? Do they provide benefits, too?

As it turns out, they sure do!

Keeping indoor plants in your home and office can greatly improve the quality of the air in your indoor space. It goes without saying that the the quality of the air you breathe directly affects your overall health, so it's important to make sure that you're doing what you can to keep your air clean!

So what do indoor plants do to improve air quality? According to How to Grow Fresh Air by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, indoor plants clean up the air you breathe in the following ways:

1. They absorb Carbon dioxide
2. They release Oxygen
3. They eliminate toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene (often found in chemical solvents)

Great, right? And here's some more great news: many indoor plants are very low-maintenance!

Here's a list of some great indoor plants that clean the air, are easy to grow and can help you keep your family, yourself, and your co-workers healthy and happy:

  • Golden Pothos
  • English Ivy
  • Peace Lily
  • Spider Plant
  • Snake Plant
  • Dracaena
  • Philodendron
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Ficus benji
  • Rubber Plant
  • Lady Palm
  • Areca Palm
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Boston Fern

*For those of you who share your home with furry friends, please note that if ingested, the Peace Lily and Pothos can cause irritation and possibly vomiting in pets.

Happy INDOOR Gardening!

Tips on Feeding Your Summer Annuals

One of the top ten, all-time best things about summer is the abundance of vibrant blooms! 
(That's our vote, at least...)

Everywhere you go there's a fabulous combination of fun foliage, beautiful blooms and bright colors!

As summer gets warmer and drier, how do you keep your plants happy, healthy and looking their best?
The key is to make sure that you provide your plants, particularly your annuals, with proper water and nutrients to help them put their best foot forward. 

Over the years we've developed a quick and easy way to make sure your plants are getting what they need. 

We call it the Strange's 2-Step Feeding Process:

Step 1:  Osmocote
When you first plant your new annuals, sprinkle some Osmocote around the base of the plant. This dose of nutrients 'jump starts' your plants to help it adjust to their new environment.

Step 2: Blooming & Rooting
Next, give your annuals weekly feedings of Blooming & Rooting.
These feedings provide necessary nutrients to the plants as they develops its roots and sets its blooms. 

These two quick and easy steps will be well worth it when your summer annuals are healthy and full of blooms!

What if you have already planted your annuals and you did not use Osmocote at the time of planting?

No harm done! You can use these two products separately or together. Begin using the Blooming & Rooting weekly and you will see an improvement in your annuals' performance. The Osmocote helps the annuals to begin thriving more quickly after transplanting than they otherwise would; since your annuals have had time to establish themselves in their new environment, what they need now is weekly nutrients. 

Does the 2-Step Feeding Program work for containers, too?

Absolutely! You can use this feeding program for the annuals you plant in your flower beds as well as for the annuals you plant in your containers! 

We hope you're having fun enjoying beautiful plants this summer!

Happy Gardening!