Simple Gifts

Christmas tree season at Oakland Nursery is one of my favorite times of year. I love coming home smelling like Christmas after schlepping trees for customers. Everyone is in a good mood, enjoying (or enduring) the endless cheesy Christmas music!

A favorite non-cheesy song of mine (and yet to ever be heard at one our locations…) is Simple Gifts. The lyrics of which I’m also constantly trying to abide by. ‘Tis the season for love, giving and warmth – but also for many, the season of being easily overwhelmed.  As a self-proclaimed terrible gift giver, I tend towards the easily overwhelmed side of the holidays. Knowing this, I try to keep things simple. But in recent years things have gotten more complicated….not only is there pressure for a great thoughtful gift for my husband, but also his parents and siblings and their children, my parents – who already have everything – and a difficult brother. Then there is my children, who are both old enough and young enough to want everything, right now! I realize this is very quickly turning into a “woe is me”, first-world problem.

But true simplicity has been gained… I thought of a great SIMPLE gift! And in the spirit of the giving season, I thought I’d share my first-ever good gift idea with you!

Flavored simple syrup. (you get what I did there, right?!)

It’s the easiest, or shall I say, simplest recipe on earth:

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

Heat water in a sauce pan and add sugar. Stir in sugar until it has melted.  Add flavoring. Take pan away from heat and let cool. Strain out any solids and bottle up. And refrigerate.

Flavoring is where you can make things interesting. I like to make use of the remaining herbs left in the garden, usually thyme or rosemary. If you’re feeling experimental, try pine (a sprig of white pine to be exact). Or if you want to enhance the old gin and tonic, throw in a sprig of juniper. Basil or Lavender are also surprisingly good, but you’ll have to make a trip to the store for those.

If you take the time to pour the syrup in small decorative bottles, you can easily turn this homemade simple gift into something to be treasured. These syrups can enhance a mixed drink or a cup of warm tea! Your friends and family will love it, and if they don’t, they’re just being impossible. And you can always blame me: the terrible gifter! You’re welcome.

Happy Holidays! Cheers!

written by Kate Wilson

If you’re looking for some more gift ideas from the terrible gifter, check out these ideas!

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Friends at the Nursery

Friends at the Nursery

written by Kate Wilson

It’s that time of year when the nursery has a special buzz welcoming the Fall season. Things are hopping around here and it’s always a nice surprise to see these friendly and diverse faces. Here are few photos of the wildlife we find just around the nursery!

The largest praying mantis I’ve ever seen and also the inspiration for this post!

Seems like there have been quite a few monarchs around this year!

It’s so pretty, its deserving of a close up! 🙂

Don’t tell my soon- to-be-entomologist son, but generally I don’t consider spiders friends. However, I can make an exception for this aptly named Garden Spider.

Bumble bees…There is a manger here at Oakland that actually pets bumble bees. Manger, bumble whisperer.

Don’t worry, everyone gives these friends their space!

Hummingbird moth enjoying a butterfly bush.

This friend is super hard to snap a photo of, at least with my phone’s camera. Can you tell what this speedy moving guy is? A red throated humming bird!

Google tells me this is possibly a wood frog, making a home on some tropical plants.

All these friends were photographed in the same day. Special thanks to Lisa, for finding the sweet frog!

Happy Gardening!

 

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Plant bio: Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

Plant bio: Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

written by Kate Wilson

Black Gum has only recently come across my nerdy plant loving radar. And I’m so glad it has, because it is now in my top 5 favorite trees of all time. And here are five reasons why in a very particular order.

1. Black Gum is a native tree species! Meaning; it can put up with our lame alkaline clay soil and is fairly disease and pest free. Oh, and our manic climatic changes here in Ohio. Consider planting variety ‘Wildfire’ on a sunny south or southeast side. More about varieties below…

2. It has amazing fall color. AMAZING!! The straight species has a variety of yellows, oranges and reds. While some cultivars, such as ‘Wildfire’ or ‘Red Rage’ have bright red fall color that would beat the brightness off of any red maple. Yeah, it’s that serious folks.

3. Even when it’s not fall, it’s still has great color. It has oval leaves that are a lovely glossy green. Glossy enough that the shine is noticeable compared to other nearby trees. ‘Wildfire’ is particularly striking with its bright orange/red new growth.

4. It holds it shape well, not only from tree to tree but also with age. Before it even reaches puberty, this tree will have formed its rounded semi-pyramidal shape and just enlarge over the years. It’s not particularly fast growing, but its keeps it shape and isn’t brittle (so it won’t break easily like some of those fast growing trees!)

5. It’s not a “messy” tree. Any fruit that it bears will be eaten up by the birds – it really never seems to drop any. It doesn’t constantly loose small twigs after strong winds. And since its flower isn’t significant when it’s in bloom, it’s even less noticeable when the flower drops.

6. Honey bees love the nectar from Black Gum’s spring flowers! For real, they will go B-A-N-A-N-A-S and you in turn will also go bananas for their delicious honey. I know I said five reasons above, but who could leave out the bees?

Given the shape, glossy green leaves and fall color- this is an impressive specimen tree. It will grow to 40’-60’ adding stately to its long list of features. Its tough adaptable and mess free, making it a low maintenance multi-seasonal plant. If you have the space, please consider this great under used plant in your landscape.

For more information about native trees please check out 5 native flowering trees. The majority also have great fall color. And remember Fall is a great time for planting!

Happy Gardening!

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The Dirt on Dirt

 by Kate Wilson

We all know that when we put a shovel to the ground here in central Ohio, it can be a bit of a daunting task. We have dense, heavy clay soil which can make digging a hole tiresome, and doesn’t exactly promote healthy plant growth.  At Oakland Nursery, we always recommend amending your soil when planting. With what exactly?  Anything! Anything that contains organic matter will help break up the density of the clay. Any version of topsoil, compost, or peat will be better than choosing to not amend your soil at all.

In many newer housing developments builders backfill around houses with subsoil. Our soil is typically broken up into multiple layers or horizons. Topsoil, the upper most layer, usually containing leaves and organic matter that’s beginning to breakdown (humus). The next layer in central Ohio is going to be dense clay soil (NE Ohio also has clay soil, but with a more acidic pH. Which is why a certain number of plants thrive better than in our clay alkaline soils – think rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas with blue flowers!) But I digress: it is imperative that you amend your soil.

So what is the best amendment? I’ve always considered Topsoil to be the “all purpose” bag – works in most situations and is budget friendly. I’ve reserved my use of costlier compost for perennials and veggies. I’ve used peat when I’ve put down grass seed, because it’s the cheapest and a lot of it is needed for seed.

Having said all that, I recently did some more research the matter. Research as in: I bothered to read the ingredients on the bag. All the bags. I’m going to share my results with you – with pictures!

 

I couldn’t believe my eyes- no mysterious, un-pronounceable ingredients. Whether topsoil, compost, peat and even potting soil, the main ingredient – the one that takes up 90% of the bag or more – is peat! Reed Sedge Peat to be exact. Do hear what I’m telling you?! The scoop is that these soils are all peat based.

Topsoil (Garden Magic brand) is peat with a bit of sand mixed in. And even though there’s just a small percentage of sand, that sand has value. The sand serves to make the composition lighter and helps with drainage. Something that breaks up our dense clay and promotes healthy plant growth.

Compost: peat with manure. There are few options offered when it comes to compost. Holy Cow has a higher compost to peat ratio blend than the Oakland Garden Magic, and is priced accordingly. Posey Power is another popular option because it contains horse manure, rather than cow manure. It should be noted that horse manure is considered, um…”hot” due to its high nitrogen content compared to cow manure. It’s great for leafy greens, garlic, potatoes or corn- but cow manure would be the preferred choice when using it for flowering veggies (tomatoes and peppers) or perennials.

Peat: 100% peat – no bones there.

Now, this isn’t ground breaking or negative – I just never realized. Did you know that these products were all peat based?

The initial lesson remains the same: amend your soil. Add this peat (with sand, manure, or whatever) because it will help build your soil profile. Some blends contain more soil nutrients than others. Any amendment is better than no amendment.

….But wait….what about Potting Soil?

Potting soil is, like topsoils and composts, peat based. The main difference with potting soils is that it contains perlite. Even though there is only a small percentage of perlite, it is important, like sand with topsoil or manure with compost. Perlite will keep air spaces in your soil, preventing it from getting compacted in your container- and compaction means less air and water getting to the roots of your plants..

There are so many options (7 is my current estimate) when it comes to potting soil. Promix, Mircale-Gro, Fox Farm and Garden Magic are just the different brands. There are more options then within each brand, a different mixture for any use. Promix has two blends, both containing mycorrhiza, which is a fungus that helps with root absorption. Mircale-Gro also has two blends, which contain different mixtures of fertilizer tailored to their intended use. While Fox Farm potting soil blends contain earth worm castings and bat guano. And Garden Magic is the most budget friendly, containing only peat, sand and perlite.

Are there noticeable differences in plant growth using one or the other?….If only I was in middle school again…this is a great science fair project just waiting to be done!

In the meantime, that’s the dirt on dirt. 🙂

Happy Gardening!

 

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Beautiful & Tasty Herbs for your Garden

 by Kate Wilson

Yes! You can have hardy, long bloom-time, even steppable, draught-tolerant perennials… that you can eat!  Indeed, many have made even my mediocre home-cooked meals taste decent! We’re talking efficiency here, folks. Not just planting with a purpose, but many purposes. These guys are low maintenance and so, so much more.

But I digress: here are some of my favorites that are looking great this summer.

We’ll start with the most obvious first – Lavendula. There are many tried and true varieties of Lavender out there – some of which are Provence, Munsted, Hidcote, just to name a few – but there are many more. All are rounded and compact, just some more so than others. I was inspired by The Biltmore’s hedge of lavender in their scented garden within the walled garden. Typically when you think of an herb garden, you just plop down a little bit of everything, right? But a whole hedge of mature lavender? Glorious. Mine is not nearly as mature or as long, but it gets the job done. Its slivery leaves are technically evergreen and, by technically, I mean they can really look rough in late winter. But come April, it’s noticeably perking up.

And come June – I think the picture speaks for itself. The flowers are edible and, once dried, go well in an Herbs De Provence mix. (For those of you like me – newish or slightly lazy to this whole cooking yourself thing – Herbs De Provence makes any chicken meal taste great!)

Thyme is another biggie. There many varieties here as well, but let’s just try to get through some of them. All are steppable – meaning you can step on it and not destroy it.  It works nicely bordering a path of a walkway; when you brush past it, it lets off a nice scent. Some varieties, such as English Thyme or Mother of Thyme are edible. Wooly thyme, however, is giving me dry mouth just typing it out. Although it does have a great color a unique texture to it. And man does it fill in gracefully.

 

 

 

Magic Carpet Thyme

Magic carpet is another variety which is used more for its long bloom time rather than ingesting, that also happens to be steppable. It also fills in nicely without being aggressive.

Lemon Thyme

Lemon thyme is probably my favorite of all the thyme varieties. It is steppable, has a great yellow and green variegation and tastes pretty amazing. And when it’s in bloom those honey bees seem to really like it.

Dill

Dill: This guy I didn’t initially have great expectations for. In fact, I would have never planted it in the first place if it wasn’t for one of Oakland Nursery’s interns. He’s a little obsessed with it, perhaps because it’s the only herb he uses in his limited – but delicious – repertoire. We’re talking only potatoes here. I planted it hoping it would make him feel a little less home sick and I fell in love with this plant. It’s an annual, but it will seed out and pop up in great unexpected places the next year. You don’t even have to brush it as you pass by to get a pleasing whiff. It’s beautiful and will heighten your mashed potatoes to a level you didn’t even know existed.

Arugula (bolted)

Arugula will bolt (flower and then the leaves will then taste terrible) as soon as our summer weather hits. It’s what we call a cool weather crop. It does best when planted from seed in early spring and again in later summer for fall harvest. I “let” mine go to seed this summer, hoping it will re-seed itself this fall for me. It has a nice white flower to it and fills in nicely, getting taller than I thought it would. It has been able to withstand our recent heat with little rain (I’m not bothering to water it) and the blooms seem to be lasting more than two weeks.

So happy to see those honey bees out there modeling for a photo shoot. Happy Gardening!

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Plant bio: Deutzia

kate wilsonby Kate Wilson

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Deutzia gracilis is a small growing shrub (2’-5’ tall and wide), native to Japan, that is tolerant of clay soils – which we know all too well about here in Ohio. The largest I’ve ever seen it here was about 3 ½’ around in a New Albany garden where they had amended their soil pretty extensively. It has a white showy bloom in mid to late spring after it has started to leaf out. The leaves are a bright green and serrated along the edge. It’s often trimmed or made into a hedge after blooming, but I think it has a nice natural rounded shape all on its own. The best part – it can take full sun to part shade! No serious pest (including deer!) or disease problems.

This highly under used shrub also comes in a couple of fun varieties.

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Deutzia Chardonnay Pearls

Deutzia gracilis ‘Duncan’ CHARDONNAY PEARLS is more compact growing to 2’-3’ tall and wide. Also has the white showy bloom in mid to late spring – but instead of bright green leaves, it has showy chartreuse colored leaves. Almost yellow. It too can take full sun to part shade. And no serious pest or disease problems.

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Deutzia Cherry Blossom

Another variety – seen even less often– is Deutzia ‘NCDX2’ YUKI CHERRY BLOSSOM. It’s even more compact only growing 1’-2’ around. It has a pink showy bloom and bright green leaves. Full sun to part shade and no serious pest or disease problems.

nikko2

Nikko Deutzia

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Nikko Deutzia

 

At the nursery, we also carry a variety called “NIKKO SLENDER.” It produces lots of tiny, white flowers and is good for small spaces, only getting about 2′ tall. It’s foliage turns burgundy in the fall and can tolerate lots of soils.

Other websites claim no fall color, but I’ve witnessed a nice deep purple in late fall before the leaves drop on my mine. Which is cool. As far as uses go: they make a great informal hedge, look well massed in a garden border or could also be used on a woodland border. It’s a great three season compact shrub.

Happy Gardening!

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Easy Care Fruit Trees and Shrubs

kate wilsonby Kate Wilson

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Apple tree in bloom

There’s something romantic in the idea of walking out into your yard and picking an apple off of your own tree and taking a big juice bite out of it! This notion becomes even more intense once you have your own kids – who of course, are crazy picky eaters. In an attempt to selfishly fulfill my own dream and encourage my children to have a healthier relationship with food, I’ve been trying to plant more (decorative) edibles in my landscape. Living in town, I don’t have the space available for a straight up orchard, but rather, I’ve been mixing in fruiting trees and shrubs within my normal (ornamental) garden beds. And having a bit of chaotic life, I’m seeking out easy to care for – will come back year after year without me having to replant them annually- delicious tasting food. Not high maintenance. Low key rather.

pawpaw

(a photo of Paw paws I took at Dawe’s Arboretum)

I’m starting off with a small cluster of Pawpaw, a slow growing local, which will hopefully start baring fruit ten years or so from now. Not exactly a quick return on investment, but they are beautiful trees- fruiting or not. I also planted raspberries, which I’ve never fertilized or needed to spray – only getting the occasional trimming of the tops from deer. They have provided more bountiful harvests as the bramble has established itself. Twice a year (once in the spring and again in late fall) I chop out shoots with a shovel that have escaped their intended area. Monrovia has come out with a new variety of red raspberry, Raspberry Shortcake, which is thorn-less and is compact growing 3’ around. Perfect for containers or small gardens.

Raspberries

After consulting with expert (and fellow Oakland Nursery compatriot) Cat Baumgartner about my efforts, she has opened my eyes to a wider array of easy-to-care-for perennial edibles for the garden than initially suspected.

Despite my daydream, I’ve been hesitant to actually plant an apple tree. Old varieties need quite a bit of space and it’s always been recommended that you have two of varying varieties for good pollination. Which in my mind equals eating up more of my limited space. Then there is the whole spraying obligation that complicates the issue. But Cat was able to clear some things up and now I feel enabled to plant said apple tree. Yes, just one. Why? Because Cat knowledge bombed me – which I’m happy to pass along to you as well. In town, there are so many crabapples, that you really don’t need the recommended pollinator tree. Crabapples will pollinate your apple tree! There are also quite a few dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties and with the realization that I only need to plant one, the space issue is no longer a concern.

peach and apple

(Cat’s peach front left, apple centered with a ‘Forest Pansy’ Redbud to the right)

She also recommended using Orchard spray if scab gets out of hand. Did you know that apples are still edible if they have scab? I didn’t! Yes, they look slightly less appetizing, but if you were going to be making sauce, pie, cider or what have you anyway, then no worries about a little scab. And if does become too much for you, the Orchard spray label with detailed directions are really easy to follow. It also helps to clean up all the infected leaves once they have fallen and don’t add them to your compost pile.

peaches

(Cat’s beautiful peaches despite having a bit of scab – the small black spots) And no, Peach trees didn’t make the short list, because of their short life span.

Moving on to some often overlooked fruiting trees:

figs

Cat’s Fig Tree

Figs! There are more things to do with figs than make Figgy pudding- my neighbor likes to eat them fresh off the tree! Brown Turkey and Celeste are two varieties of fig that are “hardy” in central Ohio. Quotations are necessary here, because they do need winter protection if you want any fruit for the following season. It’s easiest to protect them by placing a large tomato cage around the tree and fill with leaves in the fall. Figs also have a gorgeous giant leaf giving them a tropical look- which can be fun.

Growing citrus wasn’t even on my radar, as I thought that was more of Florida and California thing. It turns out there is one lovely exception, the Persimmon. This sweet tasting citrus is harvested after the tree drops all of its leaves, giving it seasonal interest in late fall/early winter, when there isn’t typically a lot of interest going on in the landscape.

cherries

(Cat’s cherries- in the foreground and to the right)

Lastly, the Cherry. The uniformly rounded tree form is a small size – 25’ or under depending on the variety. They also have a showy spring bloom. There is a Dwarf Korean Cherry, which is a shrub form and self-pollinating! This is what I have planted (next to my raspberries) and this will be the first year I’m going to cherries from it! I planted it two years ago, but last season a late freeze killed off the flowers.

dwarf cherry

Freezes are an uncontrollable risk to any in-flower fruiting tree (or shrub) you may have, but it will make you cherish your harvest that much more in the good seasons! Please consider planting some of these easy care edibles to your garden, they’ll enrich your landscape and your food fare!

Happy Gardening!

(And a special thanks to Cat for not only sharing her expertise, but her photos of her beautiful edible garden!)

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Old Shrubs, New Uses

kate wilson by Kate Wilson

It always amazes me how preferred landscaping styles can inspire such controversy. And I’m not here to condone one way or the other; but rather to encourage and hopefully inspire. Whatever your preference, own it. If you aren’t sure you even have one, then you’re in a great spot to explore and figure it out. I encourage everyone to view gardening as a safe place to take risks and experiment, but mostly to have fun. Where to start? How about the classics of landscape design? There are some oldie but goodie plants out there that are in need of a little creative reconfiguring.  Let’s look beyond their standard uses and come up with some alternatives. Here are a few ideas:

landscape bed--birches and arbs landscape--arbs and hostas

Arborvitae is overwhelmingly used for screening. When planted en masse, the arborvitae reins king of the budget-friendly “green” fence option. But that doesn’t have to be its only function. Why not a single vertical element in a border or perennial bed? If you have the space to allow for it, Arborvitae Techny or ‘Nigra’, which grow to be about 5’ wide and 18’ tall, have a great deep green color and a more attractive texture than some other varieties.

mailbox landscape bedAnother thought on good old arbs….Globe Arborvitaes. As the name implies, they are naturally globous in shape, giving value to the term low-maintenance – no sheering required. And for those who love the manicured look with less effort, I say go all in. Don’t be afraid to give your garden some balls. And why not lots of them!

There’s no arguing that the manicured garden style makes a bold statement. Another creative warose of sharon espaliery to achieve this look is with the Rose of Sharon. Typically desired for its repeat showy summer blooms, it can grow to be rather large naturally but can also tolerate sheering. More memorable, however, is seeing it pruned into a topiary, as a specimen at The Biltmore Estate left an impression on me years ago.

Vegetable and herb gardens are also typically grown in formal design beds or at least allotted a separate spot from the rest of the landscape. But why? There are so many beautiful varieties of food, why not grow them throughout your yard? Take companion planting to a whole new level when you have edibles mixed in your mixed borders! Or if that sounds too daring, try some ruffled kale or rainbow chard in your annual pot displays. Same idea, just on a smaller more manageable scale.

kale and cabbage container phlox in perennial bed

Speaking of daring, let’s talk about roses for a moment. There are so many colors and roses in bedvarieties available now, mostly all disease- and pest-resistant to boot, it would be a challenge not to get creative with them. If you have a sunny foundation in need of some pop, I’d suggest a row or mass planting of roses with a small evergreen hedge (read: boxwood) in front. The boxwoods would hide any inevitable naked leg syndrome and provide an evergreen backbone during the winter. Depending on the variety, you could potentially have a consistent blooming foundation from late spring into early fall. Not everybody has that!

ornamental grasses and black eyed susansMy last thought I’ll leave you with is with ornamental grasses. Typically used in threes to soften a corner or edge. Standard curb appeal. But when these guys get together en masse and with a couple different varieties thrown in, something magical happens. Yes, in early spring, everything will get cut back- but grasses will start to green up quickly and by the time June has arrived, the buzz cut will have completely grown out. The grasses will be full with varied heights and subtle color variations, and the bigger the mass, the bigger the impact, all year long. I’m using a few smaller varieties to frame in a wildflower patch in my front yard. Yup- front yard, folks. That has me thinking, maybe I should flank it with some globe arborvitaes…..

Happy Spring and Happy Gardening!

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Spring Fling!

Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner! (We can hardly wait!) Our garden stores will be celebrating with our annual Spring Fling–classes, workshops, special events, kids activities, and more will be available March 11-19.  For this post, we’re showcasing the events that will be occurring at our Oakland Park Avenue store in Columbus. For more information, visit our website or call us at 614-268-3511.

March 11  & 18th (12pm-4pm): Kids Carnival
March 11 (4pm-7pm): Herbal Cocktail Sampling (21+, print invitation here)
March 15 (6pm-9pm): Paint & Sip with Via Vecchia wines (21+, tickets must be purchased ahead of time–click here to sign up!)
March 18 (4pm-7pm): Craft Beer Tasting (21+, print invitation here)

Check out the poster below for details!

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Oakland Nursery_Postcard Art--admission

 

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Finding Winter Inspiration

kate wilson by Kate Wilson

pansies

During these grey days of winter, I’m often day dreaming about my garden. Taking mental notes of what worked well last year and usually more importantly, what didn’t work so well. Where to extend my bed lines, what to plant from seed, where to tuck in more perennials- you get the idea. I’m all over the place and to rein it in I’m big on making lists. To do lists, to plant lists, to clean up lists – and then of course prioritizing ALL of the lists. Although I’m not necessarily advising my wacky list system, it does help me come up with a game plan. And having a game plan is necessary. In fact it’s now right essential. Not only will it make you more efficient and competent in your decision making, but potentially saving yourself money and heartache from easily avoidable blunders. But where to start? How does one compose a game plan?

Start with some much needed inspiration! And since sunshine isn’t readily available, start with a trip to the library. Just seeing all of the niche books relating to gardening is pretty awesome. Some recently jewels I discovered are:

The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn. John Greenlee

Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots. Sharon Lovejoy

americanmeadow rootsshoots

Columbus’ Home and Garden Show is just around the corner. This year’s show theme is International Gardens, and Oakland Nursery is excited to represent Ireland–so you’ll definitely get your green fix!

At the Garden Show, it’s impossible not to feel inspired surrounded by all the blooming plants, plus it’s a great place to gather information. Our landscape design team will be there in our garden, amongst all this color and you should come over and say hello. Ask us any of your gardening questions and we’ll be happy to help out! We also excel at coming up with master game plans, better known as landscape designs. The show is at the Ohio Expo Center February 18-26 2017 (closed on Tuesday Feb.21). (For more information on what our Landscape Design Department offers, click here.)

hgs20161Oakland

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland Nursery is also hosting our annual Spring Fling March 11-19, where we take a whole week to celebrate the onset of spring! We’ll have sales and events going on (details are forthcoming, but check back here). It’s fun to feel the buzz and to see what first appears at the nursery. Our team will be itching to talk anything gardening with you!

appleblossoms

Happy Garden Game Planning!!

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