Thursday, September 25, 2014

Catchin’ a BUZZ at the Creek!

1.2 million workers recently arrived at North Creek, give or take a few wings!

In collaboration with local legend and beekeeper extraordinaire Walt Broughton, we’re employing the power of honeybees. Albeit delicious, the byproduct of nectar is not our goal. Instead, we’re partnering with Walt in support of his initiative to increase populations of northern hardy honeybee genetic strains. Residing along waterfront property between two ponds, they seem right at home in our living laboratory of trial and demonstration gardens.

Under Walt’s “Nucleus Providing Campaign” approximately 470 hives have been peppered within a 50 mile radius of Walt’s Swarmbustin’ Honey headquarters located in southern Chester County, PA.  North Creek houses 30 of these hives. In the late 2000s, Mr. Broughton started experiencing a sharp increase in winter loss rates and decided something needed to be done. Loss rates had skyrocketed to a staggering 50%, whereas historic winter losses averaged 4-10% in the 80s and 90s. 

As loss rates grew, “factory farmed” bees were shipped up from the south to keep colony levels in balance. Instead of unnecessarily stressing the bees with a long journey, Walt is building robust strains raised from survivor stock of northern genetics - not trucked, not stressed. His focus is directed toward the existing bee population to derive a strain that is naturally adapted to our climate. His goal is to build enough healthy splits to be a consistent supplier of bees of good northern genetics.

With honeybees already in peril and varying theories swirling around colony collapse disorder, saving these necessary pollinators is a priority. Walt’s campaign to cultivate good genetics and North Creek’s vision to be a leader in the development and practice of sustainable horticulture systems is a natural fit. Plants containing neonicotinoids are harmful for the overall health of our landscapes and ecosystem services. This is a huge concern for North Creek and our customers who use the plants we grow to provide food and habitat for wildlife. 

We decided years ago to put the use of biological controls first through an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. At North Creek, we feel it is our responsibility to supply the market with plants that are healthy and safe from the inside out. As concern about the use of harmful chemicals continues to increase, it is important to be transparent about growing practices from propagation to the planting. To offer the healthiest plants possible, we implement a highly structured IPM plan. The core of our program is forged around setting action thresholds, structured scouting and identification of pests, as well as safe prevention and control methods. For a more in depth explanation of our IPM program, click here.

When asked, “What can I do for the bees?” Walt’s mindset is, “You don’t really have to do a lot in order to do a lot. It’s really as simple as embracing the dandelion, planting a tree, installing a pollinator border or small meadow, providing forage – not everyone needs to keep bees in order to make a difference.”

We’ll keep you posted on Walt’s success with grooming northern hardy honeybees! 

Two North Creek Newbies!

Mike Knox, Research & Development Manager
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Brigitte Crawford, New Products Manager

Mike Knox, Research & Development Manager and Lancaster County native, came on board this spring and has been hard at work reorganizing, planting and maintaining the 60,000 sqft of trial, demonstration and habitat gardens that make up North Creek’s Living Laboratory. Most recently, Mike has completely revamped our side-by-side sun and shade trials. As North Creek’s R&D Manager, Mike will oversee the planting and maintenance of all display and trial gardens and assist in the inventory and maintenance of our R&D collection.

After completing his degree in horticulture at Penn State, Mike pursued his interest in sustainable agriculture. It was through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program that he learned about fruit and vegetable crop production, cut flower growing and the practices and principles that foster the biodynamic farming model. This education was later employed at working farms such as Phillies Bridge, Tait Farms and Buck Hill Farm. Prior to joining North Creek, Mike was the R&D Gardener/Grower for the extensive side by side trial gardens for GreenLeaf Plants® in Lancaster, PA.

Mike's Stats:

Favorite Book: One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Richard Proenneke

Favorite Flower: Meadow species including Amsonia, Veronicastrum and Vernonia
Favorite Place to Unwind: Catoctin Mountain Park in Cunningham Falls State Park, Thurmont, MD
Hobbies: Camping, woodworking, fishing, hiking, playing clawhammer banjo and spending time with his family and very adorable dog, Ollie.

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Hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI, Brigitte Crawford is North Creek’s New Products Manager. She is responsible for maintaining strong relationships with our breeder network and procuring samples for trial and evaluation.

Brigitte’s undergraduate (UW River Falls, ‘07) and graduate (North Carolina State University, ‘13) studies were focused on horticultural sciences. She expanded upon her education as Research Intern under Jim Harbage & Alan Petravich at Longwood Gardens. She has also served as Production Research Intern at Ball Horticultural Company and Production & Marketing Intern at C. Raker & Sons, Inc.

Brigitte's Stats:

Hobbies: Cooking, quilting and entertaining her cat Stella.

Fun Fact: Brigitte cannot whistle.
Claim to Fame: Brigitte’s largest pumpkin, grown for the ’03 Nekoosa Giant Pumpkin Fest, weighed in at an impressive 604.5 pounds!
Favorite Food: Cheese, but that goes without saying - she grew up in America’s Dairyland!

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Together, the role Brigitte and Mike play in New Products and Research & Development are the keystone of North Creek’s mission – to propagate and market plants that develop the relationship between people and sustainable outdoor environments. We feel it is our responsibility to offer the industry plant material we can firmly stand behind. As you’ve come to expect and trust, and with thanks to Brigitte and Mike, these selections will be evaluated for ornamental appeal, cultural adaptability, habit, hardiness and pest & disease resistance.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rain Garden Workshop offered at the 2014 Native Plants in the Landscape Conference

Workshop 1: Vegetated Solutions for Functional
and Aesthetic Rain 
Thursday, June 5th  ǀ  8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Join North Creek’s very own Claudia West & Kevin Staso to kick off the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference on Thursday, June 5th for Workshop 1: Vegetated Solutions for Functional and Aesthetic Rain Gardens. In this daylong event, participants will learn why a majority of rain garden designs fail to meet our expectations and how to turn your next project into a success. The purpose of this advanced and professional workshop will be to properly design within a successful plant community that will provide maximum function and aesthetic appeal. Attendees will learn how to select, properly combine and install native plants based on a mixed planting approach — transforming beliefs, embracing new methodologies and dispelling currently “accepted” rain garden design.

View the conference brochure HERE. Register Online HERE. For more information call (717) 871-2189 or email

Field trips and workshops are rain or shine and depart from the Student Memorial Center. Comfortable footwear and clothes along with a hat and sunscreen are recommended. Attendees will need to bring their own hand trowels and gloves. Transportation, drinks, and a boxed lunch are included in the additional fee for the field trips.

Mark Your Calendars for the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference

BACK and better than EVER - Register NOW!

Celebrating its 23rd year in the making, the 2014 Native Plants in the Landscape Conference will be held June 5-7 at Millersville University in beautiful Millersville, PA.

Educational workshops, engaging lectures by industry leaders and inspirational field trips will focus on topics of concern including: stormwater management, permaculture, pollinators, plant conservation and designing with SITES in mind. As always, the native plant and book sale will be open for business throughout the conference.

Concurrent sessions and availability at such a busy time of year need not leave you fretting over which lecture to attend − new this year are conference recordings and single session & partial registrations. Also, expanded CEU’s are available for LACES, APLD, Delaware Certified Horticulturist, Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist, New York CNLP and Maryland CPH. The two LACES certified workshops for Landscape Architects include: Building a Rain & Planting a Meadow.

An expanded selection of lectures for both professional and amateur tracks, Saturday morning children’s education and all the shared knowledge in between sessions as you meet new friends and reconnect with familiar faces. We’re excited to see all of our native plant friends in scenic southern Lancaster County this summer. Save the date, this conference is not to be missed!

View the conference brochure HERE. Register Online HERE. For more information call (717) 871-2189 or email