The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday 15th January, 2015 at Nature’s Tree Farm in Luthersville. Unfortunately the weather was not merry but quite drizzly and cold so the hayride, quilts, cider and donuts planned by host Gail Coffee were postponed. Happily most club members got to view Steve Kinney’s beautiful layout of the tree farm, and several drove through the lanes of potted plants before moving to the home of Gail and Bill Coffee.
Warm cider and a variety of delicious donuts were available there to warm everyone and Gail attractively displayed the donuts in vintage metal lunchboxes that belonged to her children, to her, and to her father. Kinney promised the hayride at a later date as he has a hay wagon complete with drop down steps for an easy climb up.
Kinney grew up wanting to farm, but he had been told by his grandfather it was not profitable. At the age of twelve he started working for P. Skinner at his nursery where he learned a lot as he grafted fruit and nut trees and camellias and handled vegetable plants. He persevered in the field and has made a successful business with nurseries in Peachtree City and Fayetteville before doing what has been his lifelong dream of being in the growing business.
Kinney said he has taken Truett Cathy’s advice in that, “if you do something you like for a living, you will never work a day in your life.” So for fifty years he has been in the nursery business.
Nature’s Tree Farm grows trees in containers. They sell 175 varieties of trees and shrubs to nurseries and landscapers. One prominent client is the Biltmore House where trees grown in Luthersville now have replaced the aging tulip poplars that line the allee leading to the house.
Kinney’s plants can be grown in as large as 45 gallon containers that make it is easy to move, ship, and transport. His program for the garden club was about trees, and he began by stating we should choose the tree to plant by the soil, sun/shade, and of the size the tree will be when mature. Today’s homeowner wants immediate satisfaction with their landscaping and that does not happen. When asked about trends he pointed out the fifties had its hollies, the sixties red tipped photinias, then came the leylands and Bradford pears. Varieties he enjoys and encourages homeowners to plant are the Fox Valley River Birch, Carolina Hornbeam, gingko, and Persian ironwood or Parrotia.
When asked what to plant on logged acreage, Kinney recommended native trees like hickory, birch, bald cypress, dogwood, and red maples for a variety of color, height, and looks. He pointed out that the Smoky Mountains National Park has more tree varieties than in all of Europe. To stop trees from sprouting after have been logged he said making axe grooves in the stump and brushing Roundup full strength on the stump would kill the tree and not damage the soil.
Kinney finished by pointing out that trees are the bones or structure of the landscape and live long after shrubs and perennials. They are a great investment so he encouraged club members to plant for the future and have a long range vision for their landscapes rather than selling out to instant gratification. Winter is the best time of the year to plant trees and be sure to dig a wide hole and break up the soil below pot depth. The root ball can be a tad higher than the surrounding soil, but definitely pull apart any pot bound roots. Add organic matter to clay soil but it’s much more important to mulch around the top, but never let mulch touch the trunk. Kinney likes to saturate the root ball with water before filling in the hole so the soil is soaked and settled.
The garden club handled several bits of business: signing up to host programs in 2015, paying dues, and upcoming events or announcements. Connie Strickland invited the club to their farm on Luthersville Road as it is hosting a Stock Dog Trials February 6, 7, and 8. The club decided that would be a great February program. Babs Gordon has also extended an invitation to tour the Needle Arts Show at Callaway that runs until January 26th.