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Quiet Moments in March

Larry H

The coronavirus has radically affected all of our lives, and we all have different circumstances, quirks, and abilities to deal with the changing warnings and guidelines. Being in the “elderly cohort,” I have been careful to follow the guidelines for exposure: mostly staying home, using hand sanitizer when I do go out, doing my best to maintain social distancing.

Since I am spending most of my time at home, I am struck by how thankful I am to have houseplants. They don’t ask for much attention, sitting on the windowsill, “looking” out to the fresh air and sunlight. Sort of like a house cat or a housebound human. This would be a good time for you to go to the Behnke blog and read some of our houseplant care articles. With the longer days of spring, your houseplants will be coming out of their winter slow-down. If they are getting enough light, they will start putting out new growth and will appreciate a bit of houseplant fertilizer. With houseplants, it’s all about getting enough light, followed by proper watering. Everything else follows from there.

Meanwhile, outdoors there is the usual spring cleanup. I also have planting to do as a result of tree removal. As Stephanie has mentioned in her articles, some garden centers remain open. They may have curbside pickup, and they also offer delivery. I decided to check a couple out on Friday. Things were about as you would expect for this time in March: the trees and shrubs were arriving, and some perennials had arrived but not a lot.

I suspect that stocking will be slower and lighter this year in general for the obvious virus-related staffing and shopping issues, as well as long-haul truckers focusing on moving groceries and other essentials. (Although most perennials and annuals are grown within say, 100 miles of the garden center, and are shipped on the nursery’s own trucks, many shrubs come in from Oregon and California and are shipped on independent trucker’s semis on a load-by-load basis.)

tree removal
randy dorman

Because I worked at Behnke’s, I pretty much always had what I needed right outside my office, so this was my first trip to other garden centers in many years. My first stop was at Grey Goose Farm in the Olney, MD, area. It’s a compact, family-owned business with one location.

Keeping my proper social distance, I chatted with Randy (pictured left, at Behnke’s), who for the last several years before we closed was our Garden Shop manager at Beltsville—great guy, very knowledgeable. He said they were making a lot of deliveries and were keeping busy. Landscape company trucks were coming in to buy landscape materials. I bought some shrubs and started thinking about having bulk topsoil and mulch delivered to my home.

I then went to Meadows Farms in the Clarksburg, MD, area. Meadows Farms was larger than Grey Goose and has a pretty layout on a hillside. I was looking for a specific shrub that hadn’t come in yet, but I thought the selection for late mid-March was good and the quality was good.

There were more people shopping, but again, you could keep your social distancing and still enjoy time outside. It was nice to see hundreds of blooming creeping-phlox and it gave me a quick pang, thinking about thirty five years of setting phlox out for sale at Behnke’s.

creeping phlox

Each of these garden centers is about a half-hour drive from my home, and I look forward to returning later in the spring. Like most garden centers they are spread out and outdoors, and to me, most of your time spent there wouldn’t be much different than walking around the block in your own neighborhood. Plus, if you have the cash, you’re helping keep garden centers in business and people employed. If they are closed to shoppers but open for delivery, keep that in mind as an option. Stay home if you don’t feel well, and let’s hope that things become “more normal” by summer.

By Larry Hurley: Former Behnke Horticulturist

** This article by Larry was written last week before Gov. Hogan closed additional businesses in Maryland. Please check first to see if the garden center is open to shoppers and what protocols they have in place before you come. ~ Stephanie Fleming

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