The Sammis Greenhouse Herb Reference

Sage advice for growing and enjoying herbs!


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End of the season

The season is just about over, and we are now open on a self serve basis, meaning you can stop in any time but your money will be left in a box rather than taken by a charming employee (unless someone is there watering).

There are still some great herbs left, and if you plant them now they should be fine for next year (perennials only, obviously). They’ve all been moved up by the register so they’re easier to find. Lots of hardy perennials left– lavender, oregano, sage, mints– as well as non-hardy sorts if you feel like trying something on your windowsill. :)


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Playing hooky

Last week my dad and I headed down to the Harrisburg/Lancaster area, where we spent two days visiting garden centers, buying cool plants, and visiting the Landisville field trials. Good times!!

I never really get out much to other greenhouses, so it’s always fun when I do. And educational. There were some things we saw that we could improve on, and as many things that I felt we were doing better. No greenhouse is ever quite perfect, or excelling at every aspect of the business. One big difference I noticed was that these places were getting deliveries of plants grown elsewhere, so it made it easier for them to have small amounts of things that looked really fresh and good. We’re really proud that we grow our own plants, but at this point in the year it’s harder to keep things fertilized and watered (as the slow-release fertilizer and water-holding gel in the soil mix have been used up), or to anticipate what we’ll need more of in time to grow it in batches. Dad and I spent the better part of two days debating how to improve on our displays, landscaping, and selection of non-plant items (like pots, fertilizers, garden tools, and statuary).

We both fell in love with this shade structure. One of our top-priority projects that just never quite gets done is building a special area outside for shade perennials.

We both fell in love with this shade structure. One of our top-priority projects that just never quite gets done is building a special area outside for shade perennials.

I'm a sucker for tiered displays.

I’m a sucker for tiered displays.

And for hydrangea.

And for hydrangea.

Color-coded pottery displays: pleasing to my artistic and OCD nature!

Color-coded pottery displays: pleasing to my artistic and OCD nature!

 

This was the first time I went to the field trials, and it was awesome. We missed the Field Day, so it was nice and quiet. If you’ve never heard of this before, it’s a trial garden grown by Penn State with the intent “to provide commercial plant growers, plant breeders and the gardening public with unbiased evaluations of cultivar performance in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States by testing new and established flowers, vegetables and ornamental plants.”  They plant samples from different breeders, and you get to look at them and then grade them. My dad goes every year because it helps a lot with ordering during the winter– it’s easy for the breeders to select one good picture for their catalogs, and hard to then tell if the plant is going to consistently be as nice as the picture, or how big it gets, etc. Seeing them in person and taking notes/pictures makes a big difference.

There were a hell of a lot of plants. Many of the long rows had over a hundred varieties!

There were a hell of a lot of plants. Many of the long rows had over a hundred varieties!

Every variety had a few samples planted so you could really gauge the consistency of color and habit. Every kind had a sign detailing the name and breeder, plus numbers to find it in the scoring book.

Every variety had a few samples planted so you could really gauge the consistency of color and habit. The signs detailed the name and breeder, plus numbers to find it in the scoring book.

Giant, beautiful basil. I'm researching more colorful varieties to have next year to spruce up my mixed planters, so this was helpful.

Giant, beautiful basil. I’m researching more colorful varieties to have next year to spruce up my mixed planters, so this was helpful.

Wanted to eat it.

Wanted to eat it.

Angelonia in the foreground

Angelonia in the foreground

Lavender! Just three varieties on trial.

Lavender! Just three varieties on trial.

L. angustifolia 'Platinum Blonde'. I'm sorry, I just wasn't impressed. I saw it in all the greenhouses we visited, too. The variegation is very much on the yellow side, so from any distance the plant overall looks more yellow (ie sick). Really made me appreciate the L. x intermedia 'Silver Edge' variety I carry-- the variegation is lighter on that, and the bigger, wider leaves characteristic in lavandin make it showier.

L. angustifolia ‘Platinum Blonde’. I’m sorry, I just wasn’t impressed. I saw it in all the greenhouses we visited, too. The variegation is very much on the yellow side, so from any distance the plant looks more yellow (ie sick). Really made me appreciate all over again the L. x intermedia ‘Silver Edge’ variety I carry– the variegation is lighter on that, and the bigger, wider leaves characteristic in lavandin make it showier.

Gorgeous. And really handy for seeing how some plants just can't handle the sun/heat at this time of year (cue those sad lobelia in the foreground).

Gorgeous. And really handy for seeing how some plants just can’t handle the sun/heat at this time of year (cue those sad things in the foreground, plus 95% of the petunias).

Dad jotting down some notes in his score book

Dad jotting down some notes in his score book

Big shade house-- most of the varieties inside were also represented outside so that you could see how they did in both sun and shade. This matters for a lot of the New Guinea type impatiens shown here. More breeders are claiming that their New Guineas can handle sun, but most of the ones we saw looked dramatically better in the shade. Sunpatiens, the brand we grow, were the only ones that looked great in both places.

Big shade house– most of the varieties inside were also represented outside so that you could see how they did in both sun and shade. This matters for a lot of the New Guinea type impatiens shown here. More breeders are claiming that their New Guineas can handle sun, but most of the ones we saw looked dramatically better in the shade. Sunpatiens, the brand we grow, were about the only ones that looked great in both places.

 

 

We’re trying a little harder this year to propagate our own plants for next year, rather than buying in as many unrooted cuttings or rooted starter plugs this winter. I’m setting aside herbs for stock plants for this, and potting up some of this year’s leftover plugs. One of the hard parts about ordering every year is balancing having variety with anticipating demand. When I buy unrooted cuttings, they come in increments of 100 (or 200, for thyme). It’s hard to rationalize buying 100 of something that I know I might not sell much of. That’s one perk of some of these stock plants– I can take as many or as few cuttings as I need. The other benefit is having a stock plant of something I can’t buy cuttings of– some varieties can be hard to find, or might come from a supplier that we don’t deal with or who doesn’t have enough of a selection to warrant ordering from.

Dad and I rounded up a great selection of succulents on our trip, and I got some cool new herbs for next year!

Ahh Patchouli, the poster child for herbs in low demand. But the people that like and want it REALLY want it.

Ahh Patchouli, the poster child for herbs in low demand. But the people that like and want it REALLY want it.

Lime scented geranium. Really nice!

Lime scented geranium. Really nice!

A few interesting mints that I need to research a bit but were labeled 'Meadow Tea' (looks like applemint) and 'Double Mint' (smells like peppermint and spearmint combined).

A few interesting mints that I need to research a bit but were labeled ‘Meadow Tea’ (looks like applemint) and ‘Double Mint’ (smells like peppermint and spearmint combined).

This is special. Variegated peppermint! I was lamenting this year that I have a great selection of different spearmints, but only one peppermint (two if you count the chocolate mint).

This is special. Variegated peppermint! I was lamenting this year that I have a great selection of different spearmints, but only one peppermint (two if you count the chocolate mint).

This is labeled 'Berggarten', but it is not. Loving the cream variegation!

This is labeled ‘Berggarten’, but it is not. Need to do some research to find out what this lovely sage really is. Loving the cream variegation!

White sage (the kind for making smudge sticks)

White sage (the kind for making smudge sticks), and some nice thymes in the background (‘Hi Ho Silver’ and ‘Highland Cream’).

'Pesto Perpetuo', a gorgeous variegated basil. This is a patented variety, which means I can't take cuttings. More on plant patents and royalties, coming soon!

‘Pesto Perpetuo’, a gorgeous variegated basil. This is a patented variety, which means I can’t take cuttings. *More info on plant patents and royalties, coming soon!

I just about peed when I saw this. I'm a real nut for lavender, and was cruising down this herb table going, "Got it... got it... got it... OH MY GOD don't got it!" This is Lavandula buchii, a species of lavender that is somewhat similar in appearance to Lavandula pinnata, the fern-leafed lavender which I've carried for years. I'm loving this one, with its bigger, more silvery, airy foliage.

I just about peed when I saw this. I’m a real nut for lavender, and was cruising down this herb table going, “Got it… got it… got it… OH MY GOD don’t got it!” This is Lavandula buchii, a species of lavender that is somewhat similar in appearance to Lavandula pinnata, the fern-leafed lavender which I’ve carried for years. I’m loving this one, with its bigger, more silvery, airy foliage.

Comparison of L. pinnata and L. buchii leaves

Comparison of L. pinnata and L. buchii leaves

The differences between the two are more noticeable side by side.

The differences between the two are more noticeable side by side. L. pinnata is a smaller, tighter-looking plant with greener leaves.

 

So yeah! It was a busy, tiring, exciting adventure.

More updates to come. I’m in the process of rearranging and paring down the herb section. There’s still a great selection available, and we’ve got mums coming along as well. I’m off to update the variety list, that poor neglected creature.


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Sorry for the silence

I’m in the greenhouse a lot these days, and it’s been hard to find the time or motivation to update the blog! Sorry…

I did want to note that we’ve been very busy the last few weeks and that the herb table has been getting hammered. Thank you! And also, drat– I’ve so much replanting to tackle now! It makes it seem like we’re sold out of things, but over the next week I’ll be filling in the gaps with a younger crop so that there’s still a very full selection available all summer. I’m not updating the availability list, since for most temporarily sold out things there is plenty more on the way; if in doubt or looking for specific varieties, feel free to call the greenhouse. (814) 364-2881. I’m there six days so whoever answers the phone will check with me.

I’m hearing from a lot of people that they lost lavender, roses, and other perennial herbs this winter, as it was so much colder than normal. In my old garden at my mother’s house, a lot of things have not come back. BUT there are also tiny green shoots appearing much later than usual on plants that otherwise look dead. So if you think your lavender/other herbs are dead, check them very carefully, because they might surprise you. If you notice signs of life, go ahead and prune back the dead growth to give the new stuff a better chance, cross your fingers, and be extra vigilant about watering and fertilizing when they wake up all the way. :)


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Getting ready for Spring!

Hello! We’ve been hard at work in the greenhouse since December prepping this year’s crop. Feel free to visit our Facebook page to see cool behind the scenes photos!

I’ve been working on the herb table the past week. Most of the 4″ pots are planted now. Next up: small pots of seeded  herbs, and bigger pots of rosemary, lavender, lemon verbena, and scented geraniums.

DSCN7619

 

My next big task will be to update the variety list for this year. O_o Always an endeavour.


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Herb list updated

I’ve updated the herb list to give a better overview of what’s sold out and added a new color code to show what we’re getting low on– if you want these, best hurry! There’s only one or two plants left in some cases.

We still have a great herb selection, with much more available than is usual for this time of year. I planted extras of many things that we normally sell out of (like French tarragon and rosemary), so there’s still plenty to choose from. There’s still time this summer to plant herbs in your garden and have them root in well enough to survive the winter! I’ve planted in September & October and had everything come back.

If you’re limited on garden space or are just looking for something temporary, I’m also periodically making up new planter combinations. There are plenty of great mixed herb planters in different sizes, on sale ranging from $4.99 to $15.99! These are great to keep & use yourself or to give as gifts. They’re chock full of tasty and beautiful herbs. (Someday I’ll share photos. I’m currently out of state on a borrowed computer!)

Hope you’re all having a lovely summer!

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