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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tap Into Garden Outreach at Tagawa's

The wonderful folks I work for at Tagawa Gardens aren't the type to toot their own horn. So I've made a command decision, and I'm going to do it for them. Here goes: Tagawa's has the most extensive Garden Outreach program in Colorado, and quite possibly, in the entire country.

And what is "Garden Outreach?" As Tagawa's Garden Outreach Ambassador, I'm glad you asked.

Garden Outreach is Tagawa's way of taking the amazing expertise of our staff, about 700 years total gardening experience among our year-round employees. We combine that with examples of the plants and products we carry and offer the whole package to the community as Outreach.

Schools, church groups, garden clubs, private businesses, service organizations, retirement homes, senior centers... You name it, and my Garden Outreach partner Mary Ann (a.k.a. "Grandma Mimi") and I have done it. We visit many of the places for free. It just depends on the type of organization. Businesses, for example, pay a small fee. With non-profits, there's usually no charge. If you're a 501c3, the trip is on Tagawa's dime. Neat, huh?

What ever do we talk about?

Easy! We demonstrate and talk about pretty much any gardening or nature-related topic you ask for. (I did one time decline an invitation to discuss phytoplancton. Not my strong suit....)

Mimi and I have traveled as far north as Broomfield, as far south as Monument and as far east as the wilds of Elbert County. (I'm crazy about the terrific folks in Elbert County. They couldn't be nicer!)

Garden Outreach programs don't have to be "out." If space is available, we're happy to host interested groups right here at Tagawa's. The work of a garden center will continue around you. There may be a little noise from a load of plants going by, or occasional pages on the P.A., but that's part of the fun! We think of it a genuine garden center ambiance.

Tagawa's Outreach program also has a growing history of helping service organizations raise money through our Garden Outreach Gift Cards. Groups can plan a class or demonstration and sell gift cards at the same time. And it's way easier than organizing a bake sale!

Topics, please....

Okay, I'm going to take a deep breath and list just some of the items from our Garden Outreach "menu." Here goes: Indoor Holiday Plants, Holiday Porch Pots, Holiday Baskets and Decorations, Late-season Container Gardens, Growing Veggies in a Pot, Indoor Herb Gardening, Low-water Gardening, Fairy Gardens (for kids of all ages), Composting in a Worm Bin, Helping the Honey Bees, Coping with Wildlife, and Birds, Bees and Butterflies. The list goes on and on. And we're wide open to "special requests," too. Just ask (as long as it's not about phytoplancton).

Mimi and I also do several classes just for school-aged kids. Good Bugs and "Bad" Bugs, Backyard Birds, Pond Life, Animal Defenders and many more. We can incorporate topics the kids are currently studying at school with "real life" lessons. And for the pre-schoolers, I have a cast of zany puppets that can keep the kids smiling and learning at the same time.

Why do we offer Outreach?

Beth, Tagawa's general manager, is quick to answer: "Tagawa's takes pride in offering the best plants, products and service possible. But we also want to be the best neighbor we can be for our community and our environment. It's a priority!"

Our Outreach Program played a role two years ago in helping Tagawa's become the first Veriflora certified sustainable garden center in the county.

Plan ahead!

We at Tagawa's are proud of the fact that our Garden Outreach Program is proving to be a great success. The enthusiasm we've seen and heard from the groups and organizations we've served comes through loud and clear.

So we take it as good news that groups now need to plan ahead if they want to reserve a particular date on the Outreach schedule. Making the arrangements is easy. The person at the helm of Outreach is Michelle. She can juggle a calendar like no one I've ever known. You can reach her by calling Tagawa's main number: 303-690-4722, extension 107. Ask for Michelle in Outreach or leave her a message. She'll take excellent care of you. She can also fill you in on the Outreach Gift Card can help your group raise money.

Don't be shy!

We'd love to hear from you at Tagawa's. If you're tired of booking the same old topics for your organization, do something different!! Let Tagawa's Garden Outreach program help make your next gathering shine!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time for Amaryllis and Paperwhites

Whether you go all out with your holiday decorations, or not so much..... the beauty of amaryllis and paperwhites is hard to beat. They'll add charm to an elaborate holiday display, or a bright touch of elegance to a more low-key setting. And there's a bonus: both amaryllis and paperwhites are easy to grow, and waiting for you now at Tagawa Gardens. This is a perfect time to start them!

Part of the appeal of an amaryllis is watching it grow. Once they start sprouting, the giant bulbs can easily put on an inch of growth in a single day. I used to send a bright red amaryllis to my grandfather every Christmas. He was frail and didn't get around much, but he was always anxious to tell me that if he stared long enough, he was sure he could actually see that stem get taller and taller. It had been a long time since he'd been able to garden, but the amaryllis brought some of the old joy of gardeneing indoors.

Amaryllis come in a wonderful variety of colors: red, salmon, pink, white and stunning bi-color mixes. The giant flowers look like lilies. Each bulb will produce one or two hollow stems. Three to four huge flowers will emerge from the top of each stem. What fun!!

So where do you start? At Tagawa's, of course!

Tagawa's has a wide variety of amaryllis bulbs to choose from. Some are sold loose in bins, so you can pick exactly the bulb you want. Other amaryllis come boxed with a pot and soil included, and make a great gift.

The bigger the bulb, the bigger the flowers it will produce. Makes sense. And the planting takes about two minutes... no more!

Amaryllis like to be a bit crowded, so a pot just a couple of inches larger than the bulb is perfect. The pot has to have good drainage. Soggy soil is a sure way to rot the roots of an amaryllis.

You can set the pot with the drainage into a nice designer pot. The heavier container will give the plant stability as it gets taller, and more inclined to tip. Just remember to take the amaryllis out of the designer pot when you water it and let the excess water drain away before you put it back on display. This can help protect your furniture, too, and avoid the need for a saucer.

Amaryllis do best in good quality potting soil.... something loose and airy.
Fill the pot half way with the soil, set the amaryllis into the pot, then backfill with the remaining soil until only one third of the bulb is still showing. Water the bulb well, then set it in a warm room and don't water it again until the first shoots are a couple of inches tall. Bright light will keep the plant from getting leggy. Give the plant a quarter turn each day to keep it straight.

Next you wait... but not for long!

You should see your amaryllis begin to grow within a couple of weeks after planting. Depending on the size of the bulb, your amaryllis will take about eight weeks from planting to flowering. Larger bulbs take a bit longer. The bud stalks usually emerge first, followed by the leaves.

Water your amaryllis when the top of the soil is dry to the touch.... always remembering never to let it sit in standing water. Once the flowers have begun to bloom, keep the plant in slightly cooler conditions, even if it's just overnight, to help the blossoms last longer.

And there's more, if you choose....

When the flowers finally begin to fade, remove the stalks with a very sharp knife an inch or so above the bulb. Continue to nurture the leaves with bright light and feeding a gentle fertilizer (5-10-5, for example) twice a month. The amaryllis can even go outdoors in the summertime to give the leaves a chance to "bulk up" the bulb for next year's show. You may need to stake the leaves they get floppy.

Once the leaves die back on their own, store the bulb, pot and all, in a cool place for a couple of months. Water it just a bit to keep the soil from completely drying out.

And next fall, start all over again!


You can also choose to enjoy your amaryllis this season only, and then toss it out. If this is your preference, why not grow an amaryllis in a special glass vase that lets you see through to the lovely tangle of roots.... one more way to enjoy these fascinating plants.

Paperwhites are just as easy!

Tall, elegant paperwhites have been a winter and holiday tradition for years, and for good reason. It's easy and inexpensive to start several paperwhites in a shallow bowl of small rocks, marbles or decorative stones. The reward comes four to eight weeks after planting, with petite white flowers that look like tiny daffodils.

Tagawa's sells pre-rooted paperwhites for no additional charge. Gently transfer the bulbs to your own pot or tray, and watch them take off! The bulbs can sit on top of the pebbles an inch apart, just barely nestled in. Leave the bowls of paperwhites in a bright, cool room until the shoots appear, then move them into direct sunlight to keep them from getting leggy.

You water them with what?

Another trick to keep the leaves and stems slightly more compact: booze!
Specifically, any of the clear distilled spirits like gin, vodka or tequila.
The alcohol serves as a growth regulator that keeps the plants more compact.

Kris, one of Tagawa's amaryllis and paperwhite experts, offers the following instructions: Water the paperwhites normally for seven to ten days. Once the shoots are two- to three inches tall, replace the plain water with a diluted alcohol solution.

With any clear distilled spirit ranging from 40 to 80 proof, use one part of alcohol to seven parts of water. Use this solution for all further watering of the paperwhites. Kris says the result will be plants that are about one-third more compact, with flowers just a large, long-lasting and fragrant as usual.

Why not plant now?

Amaryllis and paperwhites can be grown indoors so easily. The only challenging part is making sure that you buy the bulbs while they're available, like now, leading up to the holiday season.

Whether you grow them for you own home or give them as a lovely holiday gift, amaryllis and paperwhites from Tagawa's are a terrific way to make the season an especially sweet time of year.