ANLA "Kick the Dirt" on Tour
By CAROL KINSLEY
The American Nursery and Landscape Association's "Kick the Dirt" Tour made two stops on Maryland's Eastern Shore on Sept. 9. The first was Angelica Nurseries in Kennedyville, home to a wide variety of woody ornamentals, broad- and narrow-leaved evergreens, and deciduous shrubs, including many of the original stock plants. The primary focus today has changed little from the initial family mission statement of the 1960s: To produce a heavy, landscape grade plant grown to the highest standards.
Among the big attractions on the ANLA tour were the big boxes — up to 36 inches, holding 125 gallons — that are used for specimen plants.
Although the nursery currently uses boxes manufactured by Amaroo Enterprises Inc. in California, explained Jim Kohl, Angelica vice president, the first boxes they built themselves from cypress wood. The boxes solved the problem of digging very large plants, such as evergreens, from the field.
"We give them extra care and make great quality plants," Kohl said. The plants are watered with drip irrigation and fertilizer is injected as needed. In the winter, individual plants are wrapped in a fleece material. Smaller plants are wrapped together in a row.
Most plants are grown in the field and transplanted to the special boxes, which range in size from 21 inches to 36. "When we dig them, we keep the soil intact, and fill the box with a heavier mix so it's closer to the consistency of soil, Kohl added.
Asked whether the boxes were to be returned by the buyer, Kohl explained that many of the specimens remain in the box at their new home. When they are transplanted, the box is often reused for another purpose by the new owner. Besides, the cost of the box is included in the price of the plant.
"These plants [are purchased by] people who don't look at price. They want this quality," he asserted.
Another unusual container used by Angelica Nurseries is the Fanntum. Kohl said he hates containers. "Plants are not meant to grow in containers." Still he did not buy into the wire basket/fabric containers made by Fanntum, but he decided to give them a try.
They were the last things planted, with plants he did not expect to sell, he explained. He just wanted to see how they grew. At the end of the growing season, he had helpers take the plants out of the baskets and wash the soil out of the roots. "They were a solid mass of roots. They had been air pruned and branched farther back in."
He displayed a London plane tree grown in a Fanntum container. It was seven-eighths-inch caliper when it was planted, he said. It sat on top of the ground in a test area, not a production area. It had only "mickey-mouse" irrigation for an hour a day. "We absolutely did not pay any attention to these plants. They were totally neglected. They had no fertilizer last year, but did get fertilizer this year."
Now, he said, "it's a solid mass of roots. I don't know what happened to the potting soil!"
In Nebraska, California and Florida, everybody is saying the same thing, the grower said. "It's always 25 degrees cooler than in a plastic pot. There are lots of air holes, but the lower temperature compensates for the air."
Fanntum products can be seen online at www.fanntum.com.
Kohl provided narration for one of two buses that navigated the 2,000-acre nursery for 45 minutes. Some of the fields were planted in corn and soybeans, but they won't be harvested, he explained. As with the fields of soybeans, they are there for the wildlife. There are some die-hard hunters among the owners, he added.
The original farm dates back to 1956. Now there are 10 farms, all but one of them connected, but a neighbor allows passage.
Sudan grass is grown as a cover crop. It grows to 6 feet, then is mowed. It grows another 6 feet and is mowed. It may grow another 3 to 6 feet before frost. A flail chopper is used to "bite off" and chop up the stalks, returning organic matter to the soil quicker than just mowing.
Kohl pointed out the pond which captures all the runoff from the operation. Two new ponds were added last winter, as well as a sediment catch basin. The water is recycled after treatment with the same kind of tablets used in pools, a change in practice from treating with chlorine gas.
Water come from 10 underground wells, at most 250 feet deep, each capable of pumping 7,000 gallons per minute. "We have a fantastic aquifer," Kohl said.
The nursery has five center pivot systems. Water cannons can handle 300 gallons per minute, but "that's not the best way," he said, "so we are expanding our drip irrigation."
Kohl said about half of the nursery's production is in containers, much of which is used to produce larger liners for field production. "Most of what we grow we propagate ourselves. All of the evergreens, shade trees and flowering trees are transplanted bare root. Oaks are started at the nursery from acorns," he added.
Altogether, he said, there are 450 to 500 varieties of plant material.