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Springing Into Your Garden–Wisely: Interview with Scott Endres of Tangletown Gardens

By Lavender April 24, 2009

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Now that spring is creeping back to the Twin Cities, gardeners, filled with a winter’s worth of pent-up yearning to get back to their roots, are donning their Wellies and brandishing their trowels in a frenzy of anticipation.

It might behoove them all to take a few deep breaths, count to 10, and consider some of the caveats shared with Lavender by Scott Endres of Tangletown Gardens

What is your first word of advice for Lavender’s horticulturists?
Easy does it. It’s too early for warm-season things. Let them grow in our greenhouse for a while, where they’re happier. Have patience. In two weeks [in fact, about the time this issue will be on the stands], you can start your cool-season plantings like pansies, perennials, trees, and shrubs.

You mentioned something in passing about gardeners “rearranging your furniture.” Would you talk about this concept?
Early spring is the best time to rearrange furniture in your garden. If something just did not work in a particular spot in the garden last year, it is OK to move it—especially perennials. It is also an ideal time to divide perennials before they put on much fresh spring growth. Start repair work like grass and lawn areas around soils and beds with organic matter.

People probably need to hear your advice about planning out their gardens, and taking it slow—how not, as you say, to end up with a slew of wilting plants you can’t process.
Gardening is supposed to be fun, but spring garden projects can be overwhelming if you look at them as a whole. I recommend tackling one project at a time. Prioritize your planting projects, and then work through them one at a time, giving yourself time to step back, and marvel over your accomplishments. There is no reason to have to hoard plants that ultimately end up as a driveway full of unplanted plants together with copious amounts of guilt associated with needing to get them into the ground. I suggest buying what you need for one project, planting that, and then coming back for the next batch. Before you know it, you will have planted your entire garden with nothing but enjoyment.

You even suggest a kind of gardener’s hope chest.
It’s never too early to start scouting—making lists of things you’ll want or need. You can start an “inspiration guide,” where you keep tear sheets of photos and ideas to use in your own garden. Not only will it give you a nudge to improve your own bit of land, but you can show your garden shop expert exactly what you want.

When you speak of the “right plant for the right place,” what are the factors involved?
Keep in mind the light conditions and water requirements for the plants you choose for the garden, as well as their mature size. If you have a lot of shade, you might have to appreciate sun-loving plants in someone else’s garden versus trying to grow these plants where only the shadiest of characters will do well. Also, a little bit of soil preparation, with the addition of organic matter, will pay dividends resulting in heartier, healthier plants. Plants, like people, need proper nutrition. Fertilization is another key to success. We recommend our Tangletown 18-18-8 slow-release fertilizer and/or Daniel’s seed extract-based liquid fertilizer. Both are excellent, and are what we use at our farm, in our greenhouses, and in our own gardens. Seed to table is good for you, and it can be easy, fun, while providing fresh, tasty results.

What are seed extract-based-materials? Why are they particularly good or effective?
We’ve been using Daniel’s liquid fertilizer almost exclusively in our greenhouses, and found it to outperform most chemically based fertilizers. Its effectiveness is attributed to the fact that it is seed-extract-based—all natural. All the beneficial qualities and nutrition found naturally in a seed are extracted to produce a perfect mix of nutrition for our plants. We started selling this at the store, too, because it works so well, plus it’s very earth-friendly.
If you will, speak a bit more about that “patience” you mentioned earlier in relation to sometimes-overeager gardeners.
A little patience—especially in spring—will pay off in the long run. Wait until mid-May to even think about planting heat-loving annuals and vegetables. Let us take care of them in our greenhouses, where they are happy, and plant out when mid-May brings warm-enough night temperatures.

What would you tell someone who is yearning to incorporate water into a garden or yard—pools, falls, etc. What should one watch out for?
Water features, like gardens, can be as simple or as complex as the people who own them. Try to choose a water feature that is size-appropriate for the space. Choose fountains that work with the architecture of the house and the existing garden elements. Most of the fountains we sell are relatively user-friendly, and are an easy addition to your landscape. Larger pond systems are a bit more complex, but relatively easy to care for once they are in place.

How can one look at all the wonderful ornaments you have out in your yard, and figure out what to use? What should one look out for?
Scale is really an important consideration when deciding where to place garden art. It depends on how the piece relates to and fits in with its surroundings. If a pair of containers framing the entry to your home is viewed from the street, the size of the containers should work with not only the scale of the house, but also the surrounding neighborhood. Puny pots would disappear and look silly. If you already have small containers, perhaps group them together to create greater impact, or move them to a spot in the garden where you can appreciate them up close. You can use the same principle for garden art and statuary, too.

Are there cold weather bamboos that could work here in Minnesota? Do you recommend them? Or are they difficult to control??
There are a few that are borderline hardy, but won’t be quite as dramatic as the bamboo from warmer regions. They will usually die back to the ground, but can put on quite a bit of growth in one season in a protected spot. They also do well in containers.

You encourage clients to ask questions. How detailed are you prepared to be with advice and planning?
It is our pleasure to help guests come up with a winning combination, choosing the perfect tree, or prescribing solutions for the occasional garden dilemma. It is what we do. Your success is our success. Ask questions, but be respectful of your experts’ time and the needs of their other customers, especially in the busy nature of spring.

Anything else you would particularly like to tell the prospective gardener?
Now more than ever, support the small local businesses you have grown to love. For every $100 spent at a local independent business, $68 stays in the community. Compare that to a chain where only $43 stays locally. Buy online, and $0 stays in our local economy.

Tangletown Gardens / 5353 Nicollet Ave., Mpls. / (612) 822-4769 / www.tangletowngardens.com

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