Thursday, April 2, 2015

2 From Column Awesome and Some Ducks

Research and Development Expands Their Reach

We'll take 2 from column awesome, please.

Anne Sharp, Research and Development Gardener- and -Laura Cruz, Research and Development Gardener 

Anne and Laura will be planting and maintaining the 60,000+ ft2 of trial, demonstration and habitat gardens that make up North Creek’s Living Laboratory with the Research and Development Team.

Pennsylvania native, Anne Sharp, joined us this winter after completing a berry research assignment with the USDA in Oregon. Anne is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and holds a degree in Biology. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said that she always knew that she would be happy outdoors with nature. She kept that passion kindled with her studies in Biology. Her passion for plants and the great outdoors is perfectly aligned with the work that she will do with us in North Creek’s Living Laboratory.  

Hobbies: Anne enjoys camping, sci-fi television, crossword puzzles and reading - favorite book Joseph Heller's Catch 22, and especially enjoys spending time with her family in York, PA.

Laura Cruz is also a PA native with a shared academic
history with J.D. Salinger. Laura completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology at Ursinus College, who's hallowed halls were walked by their most famous alum, Salinger. If that's not exciting enough, Laura also graduated from the University of Sheffield in England as a Landscape Architect, adding intense European training to her field of studies. Sheffield's Visiting Professor Piet Oudolf may be a name that you recognize. She has walked in the footsteps of giants there too.  Alum greats such as Eddie Izzard and Rachel Shelley have also come up through this prestigious institution. Her charmed life continues as she joins the ranks at North Creek – but not before she had the opportunity to buy fish and chips from the first cousin of Sean Bean from Game of Thrones

Hobbies: Laura looks forward to more domestic travel pursuits exploring, hiking and botanizing.

A warm welcome to Anne and Laura!

Duck, Duck, SPRING! 

We take growing very seriously

We're not fluffing our own feathers when we say that we are great growers. In fact, we love it so much that the team at our Oxford campus is even growing ducks and chickens. Bryan Wittes and Kevin Snyder, proud new poultry parents, know that fowl have not historically been a great gardening companion. However, in the greenhouse, they are egg-actly what the team needed. 
When we asked about the breeds, the team looked quizzical. Beaming with pride, Sarah Horstmann,Oxford's Inventory Manager said, "[W]e have some blonde ones, some brown ones, some black ones, and some little meatball shaped ones."  No matter the breed, they are entertaining and adding to an already delightful work environment. History and practicality aside, join us here each week as we watch them grow or even better - GO TO OXFORD for your plant pick-up and visit them.  

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
- and -
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.