If I were to open a Garden Center today ?

Opening a Garden Center Today.

Garden Centers have evolved over the years. There are independent garden centers often in a local neighborhood. Then there are larger groups with multiple locations.

Many of the big box ‘Do it Yourself stores’ have larger and larger ‘Garden Center’ sections.

The question recently has been where are they all heading.

So Ann asked Sid & John – “If I were to open a Garden Center today what would be your recommendations?”

Our interview with Sid Raisch and John Stanley, two ‘guru’s of the industry may help to answer that question.

You can hear this fascinating interview at www.growingtrends.org or on iTunes at Growing Trends

Coreopsis 1


What do you think?

Ann & Chris would love to hear your views.

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Country: Growing Trends -Small is beautiful in modern energy production

Ann & Chris continue their talk with Rich Sapienza and Bill Sosinsky, starting with windmills and wind turbines. Rich is a believer in 'Small is beautiful' – the idea of making incremental savings of say 25% with smaller units being … Continue reading

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Country: Growing Trends -Sustainability for the world today

Ann and Chris interview Rich Sapienza and Bill Sosinsky  we talk about sustainable solutions for the world today. It's fascinating, interesting and very enlightening. Sustainability must work on its own, grow on its own, support itself with the built-in ability … Continue reading

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Have you taken the kids to a park recently?

This classic park surrounding the simply stunning Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art , in Kansas City is a great place to start – as long as the temperature are being kind !

Anyone for Badminton?
Anyone for Badminton?

The museum has a new exhibit which kids would really enjoy, as long as they are accompanied, it’s a glass Labyrinth.

Picture credit to Chris Smart
Picture credit to Chris Smart

Alternatively if you were across the pond  in say Paris, France  you could visit a more modern looking park. I think this is  Parc de Villette

Park  in Paris
Porte de Villette, Paris

or perhaps a more tropical park in say Honolulu.

A stunning park in Honolulu

Sometimes just the local school has a pleasant surprise in store, as this school in south London achieved.

A school quiet garden
A school quiet garden

Most parks are designed and built to a much higher engineering standard, so they can last a long time without needed costly repairs.

Over the years we have designed & built a huge array of children’s play areas, mostly in parks or on community housing sites, occasionally in a school, the one above was a really fun project, quite a few years ago now.

The idea was to have a theme for the closed in ‘quiet’ area, so the architect suggested a ‘Kentish Riverbank’ , so we developed a dry river bed using kidney stones set in a flowing pattern, added a jetty to lin the ‘Oast’ house from the ‘Kentish Barn’ , included a loading ramp – to enable wheel chair access and created a few sail boats with trees for masts and sails. All the planting was native to a Kentish riverbank along the dry river, with more architectural plants around the edge.

We added a ‘hump back bridge’ in natural stone & a fallen oak tree, from years back when there was a very large storm.

A Quiet School Garden
School Garden

One of the art teachers had the kids create a whole series of ceramic fish which we set into the river bed,  they make excellent brass rubbings !

Ceramic Fish for Riverbed.
Ceramic Fish for Riverbed.

Children love to interact with nature, they also enjoy movement,as well as some risk, you will notice though that here we kept away from moving objects as this was a ‘Quiet Garden’ .

City parks in recent years have tended away from moving pieces of play equipment, mainly due to the liability from accidents, they use a more static type of play equipment, although the classic swing is still in evidence in many parks to this day.

More awareness of other dangers has lead to many play areas being fenced in, to protect the children playing.

Visiting a local farm is yet another wonderful experience “Pick you Own’ farms can be a wonderful treat for the kids..

Fruit picking
Fruit picking

Here in Weston, Missouri we have a classic old style farm that is just enchanting.

Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm
Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm

Ann & I, interviewed Farmer Steve last week he will be on our show very soon, to tell you how busy he is kept with  all his animals and field of fruit and pumpkins not to mention around 15,000 kids visiting his farm each year !

You can hear our other interviews at   Growing Trends  on www.cravingtalkradio.com

Or you can visit our show web site at  www.grotrends.com  to read more

Enjoy your weekend, thank you for reading our blog, we would love to hear from you.

Ann & Chris

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It’s all about the people !

Digital Radio, always on, step through and listen now !
Digital Radio, always on, step through and listen now !

Listen here

Most people are so interesting, it’s just a matter of coaxing them to talk to you, then asking the right questions.-

Are you passionate about your garden ?,

Do you have a favorite  landscape ?,

Would you like to be interviewed ?

We started this series of horticultural based interviews with one simple idea, which was, that within our very diverse industry there were many people :-

both Homeowners,

Designers or Creators,


or Visitors  and Admirers,

who had fascinating stories to tell about their everyday lives.

We have not been disappointed , in fact, we have been surprised by how many folks have a real passion for all things outside, particularly by how many people would like to reconnect with nature.

Tiger Rhus
Tiger Rhus

So with that in mind here is a day in the life of… Ann & Chris. the co-hosts of Growing Trends, we ventured out last Saturday, bright & early, just as the sun was rising :-

5.00 am Saturday

Ann & I had literally, a ‘field day’ on Saturday.

We each got up at the crack of dawn, and went to interview Farmer Steve, at Weston Red Barn Farm

We arrived at 7.30am and had already missed Steve, who had picked a crop of fresh peaches for Cindy ( his lovely wife) to take to market some 50 miles away.

Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm
Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm

Steve & Cindy have, for the past 25 years been slowly developing Weston Red Barn Farm to a traditional working farm, specifically to show kids how farms are part of the community. They have Apples, Peaches, Chickens, Goats, Horses, a Farm Shop, Pumpkin fields,  along with a wedding venue. It keeps them very busy throughout the summer and autumn.


One of Steve’s farm workers arrives to feed the chickens, goats, ducks, and horses, calls Steve for us, who appears over the horizon in a 4 wheeler…

We set up the Mics, the recorders,then we interviewed Steve for around an hour, it could have been much longer, Steve had a fascinating journey and one that you will be able to hear on our show shortly at  Growing Trends Internet Radio

A few snippets : –

They have an amazing 12,000 – 15,000 school children visit them every year !

They have 67 weddings at the farm in a year.!

Old Milk Churns
Old Milk Churns

I happen to know one of the current family members , of the family that invented the milk churn, their company was called Express Dairies, they developed the original milk churn to take milk from the ‘shires’ to London on the newly built railways, for the burgeoning population of the city.Needless to say they made a handsome profit !

Of course these days most milk isn’t delivered by horse & cart, or by electric milk floats – yes way back in the 60’s milk in England was delivered by battery powered eco-friendly milk floats, as a youngster I often helped the ‘Milkman’ on his rounds for an extra shilling or two.

Express diaries
Express diaries

Ok, so back to the interview.

The Farm is about to lay out it’s Pumpkins for sale so Ann found a few pumpkins lying around and ….posed for a quick picture – they sure look impressive !

It's fun here...
It’s fun here…

There was even time for a spot of ‘picking’, in my miss spent youth we would go ‘Scrumping’

These look yummy !
These look yummy !


With our interview completed, it was time to rush back to interview our second fascinating person of the day.

Alan Sargent was over 4000 miles away, and 6 hours ahead of us, in Petworth, West Sussex in England.

A must for Head Gardeners.
A must for Head Gardeners.

Alan has a most varied career in horticulture :-

He has Built or,

Designed and Built dozens of Chelsea Flower Show Gardens,

Design & Constructed Award Winning Landscapes.

Formed a Trade Association,

Judged Garden Exhibits,

Written Books

Found time to be a Head Gardener at one of England’s finest and busiest Estates – the 12000 acre Goodwood Estate – with its 44 acre gardens, airfield, horse racing,and motor racing circuits.

Goodwood estate
Goodwood estate

the race course…

The Race Course
The Race Course

the motor racing circuit. – or for the Petrol heads as Alan refers to them !

goodwood 4

Alan’s skills are legendary, and he has a keen eye for detail – I am a detail freak too, so I love his workmanship !

One of those more famous English Schools
One of those more famous English Schools

His stone work is superb.

Ann and I were to coin an English expression ‘Plum Tuckered’ – you will need to look up it’s meaning, here’s a clue to replenish the reserves we stopped for breakfast..

10.30am back home.

It was time for that quick breakfast, and of course coffee – coffee in America is so good …

Then we quickly reviewed the recordings, packed up the recording gear. Headed off to the lake some 53 miles away for a well earned break, sailing our little racing cruiser ‘Stiletto’

Stiletto - Capri 25
Stiletto – Capri 25

It’s amazing how relaxing an afternoon sail can be.. this week it was a tad hot at 100f but still fun.

This Weeks Show

This weeks show will be about a fantastic store that brings in it’s very own miniature pony each weekend, where it has a small coral in the ‘Fairy Garden’ at the back of the store. – you can buy all many of things for creating a miniature garden !

We are also talking to Richard Benfield a Garden Tourist Guru, whilst he is on his travels, around the world, we caught up with Richard in Western Australia..  do listen to the show at..  Growing Trends Internet Radio  if you, or you know someone that would be fun to interview drop us a line and we will get back to you.

In the meantime we have a website telling you more at  www.grotrends.com

You will be able to hear all about Weston Red Barn Farm, along with Alan’s adventures in the coming weeks.

If you have someone in mind we could interview drop us a line briefly explaining who & why.

Ann & Chris.

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When did you last walk in a park, or a garden?

Ann & I thought it would be fun to explore in a little depth the opportunities to re-connect with nature and the ways we can all achieve this within our busy schedules.

Recent reports have shown that even a simple stroll in a woodland has beneficial results, as the trees give off a scent that is very calming to us all – the Japanese even have a word for this.

Green entrance 1

We also know that the soil contains beneficial microbes that act in a similar way to anti-depressants – perhaps this is why so many gardeners are happy dedicated folks ?

Our promenade starts at home…. with a stroll around a garden.

Taking a contemplative stroll in a garden is very relaxing
Taking a contemplative stroll in a garden is very relaxing

By adding the artificial stream we created more interest as you walked around the garden.

We added a small stream to flow alongside the path
We added a small stream to flow alongside the path

Many of the gardens we have designed and built contain a pathway to walk around the garden, they are wide enough for two people to walk side by side, usually constructed of a long-lasting, hard wearing semi flexible surface, ( we avoided concrete as its everywhere in the urban environment, and we have found that natural materials almost always look better)

Here the pathway is made of bound limestone and leads around the garden, directly from the brick terrace.
Here the pathway is made of bound limestone and leads around the garden, directly from the brick terrace.

Here the path acts as transition between the shrub beds and the more formal lawn, further over was a fenced in swimming pool.

Path along lawn edge
Path along lawn edge

The amount of traffic, will to some extent dictate the types of finish materials best suited to the task – all will need a sub-base preparation that can withstand the intended loads. ( a reminder for designers).

A lunch break walk, or special trip to the museum , brings a different style of path.

The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art , Sculpture Park
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art , Sculpture Park

This beautiful pathway was repeated on the other side of the parkland setting

This heavily trafficked walkway above , is constructed of large rectangular pieces of natural stone, with a suitable load bearing base beneath, it is designed for many years of use.

Anyone for Badminton?
Anyone for Badminton?

Some of us are lucky to have offices with roof top garden for us to relax in for a few moments, this one was attached to the staff restaurant in central London.

Wooden pathway on Roof Garden
Wooden pathway on Roof Garden

This Roof Garden walkway is constructed of pre-treated wood and then stained, it’s laid on a spreader system, to allow the loads to be evenly distributed across the roofs entire surface ( one of those engineering requirement when working on a roof). We stained the wood green to soften it’s impact and to add to the whole ambiance.

Back home for a moment , this stepping path acts as a beautiful transition from lawn to path to pond

A little more adventurous, next to a small pond.
A little more adventurous, next to a small pond.

Walking to the rose arbor from the house….

The rose arbor was connected to the house by the pathway.
The rose arbor was connected to the house by the pathway.

Constructed of large wooden pieces, this treated timber, then stained black stepping path has pea-gravel between the pieces so we could add scented herbs , which release their essence as you step on them, the edges of the shingle are stopped off with bricks set between the wooden pieces. Creating a soft, but effective pathway.

Some years ago at a Dutch Floriade we came across this superbly, educational pathway.

A somewhat unusual pathway
A somewhat unusual pathway

Designed so that users could observe nature on the floor of the pond, it was both inspirational and educational.

Almost all gardens benefit from a method to transit from one space to another, here we created a gravel path that took the place of a traditional lawn, serving two main purposes, it significantly reduced aftercare, and reduced watering, yet looked as if it was meant to be here.

By breaking up the gravel path with two angled lines of paving and setting a pergola between the illusion of a larger space was created.
By breaking up the gravel path with two angled lines of paving and setting a pergola between the illusion of a larger space was created.

This garden was only 10ft wide by the shed !

This roof garden, was the subject of an exhibition, so a great deal of work was required to create a suitable pathway around.

Sometimes it is necessary to go to great lengths to create pathways
Sometimes it is necessary to go to great lengths to create pathways

The roof top garden was tracing the history of London’s gardens from the middle ages to the present time – well some 20 years ago.

Here’s how it finally looked..

Museum of London
Museum of London

I’ve no idea how it looks today !

Finally, if you want very low maintenance, it’s best to stick to hard surfaces, like this granite sett pathway..

This granite sett pathway is extremely hard wearing  and yet very rustic looking.
This granite sett pathway is extremely hard wearing and yet very rustic looking.

If you want a softer look , using natural bricks ( as long as they are frost resistant) is another alternative to consider.

Brick makes a very attractive pathway
Brick makes a very attractive pathway

or perhaps for the busy executive, a pathway that’s covered by a pergola on either side…

The pathways are on either side of this beautiful lawn
The pathways are on either side of this beautiful lawn

Hopefully we have inspired you to step outside and wander down to your nearest park, playground or just enjoy outside.

Find out more, listen to the amazing folks that create, tend, are passionate about or just have built these beautiful relaxing gardens, our show is all about the people

To hear our internet radio show Listen here   or our web site visit  Growing Trends Web Site

We would love to hear from you.

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A new name for the Blog – Growing Trends


We changed the name of our blog today to ‘Growing Trends’. Growing Trends is our internet based radio show, that is all about people.

The home owner that is passionate about their garden, who has a specialised skill or knowledge or style of garden landscape. It’s about the experts that design or help create them, or one of the many consultants that bring new ideas to each continent every year. lastly it’s about products and materials and how to best use them in your landscape.

We need your help especially if you are one of those passionate people with a beautiful garden landscape , or to ask those friends of yours who have those amazing gardens to contact us so we can try and interview them, for the show. it doesn’t matter if they are in another country, we can use skype to interview. If you want to see the program schedule it’s available on the website at Grotrends.com

We would also ask for pictures of these lovely landscapes, so we can add them to our growing library, please do include any credits so we can include them as well.

In return we are going to try and post here many more of the beautiful projects we have been fortunate to work on over the years, along with the anecdotes and experiences, after all it really is all about the people  !


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A new trend or just more observant ?

I don’t know about you but, it’s sure been a busy week. Here in the MIdWest the temperatures have been unseasonable , with lower temperatures than normal and lots of rain. This has had a bit of a calming effect on plant growth, with some unusual results – for instance it hasn’t been a particularly good season for of all things Rosemary.

My roses are just returning to flower after a prolonged intensive care program, which afforded harsh pesticides, insecticides and miticides use. 

“She” – who much be obeyed, had given due notice that she would not be amused if they continued to look like a cross between a spiders web and a spotty leaf.

This week was also National Farmers Market Week, so we interviewed some really interesting growers at a market, we then interviewed an amazing couple who have literally planted thousands of unusual trees on their mini estate – loved the Larch, and a Zelkova, and a magnificent specimen Oak.!

All this interviewing had us thinking – well the brain cells were stimulated a tad more than normal. We realized we were noticing a trend that I suspect is becoming more prevalent, in which people are missing the contact they once had with their suppliers. The market was just bustling from early in the morning, with regulars, who really wanted to converse with the many producers, all the wonderful folks we’ve been interviewing all really enjoyed talking about their garden passions. 

We could see time and again, that there is a need to engage folks, and that youngsters are part of this, they are seeking information on a  one to one basis, sure you could find this on your phone or tablet, but  thats only half the story, the big stores are impersonal, some even intimidating, what we are seeing is a return to the more, small personal specialist. It will be interesting to see if it continues. Big may not be as beneficial as it once was !

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Are you a passionate gardener ?

Ever since we started our radio show, I’ve come to realize how diverse, passionate and simply fascinating today’s gardeners really are.

Whilst still at school, working in the vacations a friend and I would plant new woodlands in England, we planted well over 1 million trees in that period – of course at the time they were tiny 2+ 2’s ( thats two year old twice transplanted). In subsequent years, I’ve designed hundreds of gardens and commercial properties with the team planting many hundreds of thousands more trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, herbs, bulbs and corms. The most amazing sight , during this time was , seeing a chap in America transplanting trees ( about thirty or forty actually) some weighing over 650 tons, that were 60ft tall, with a 15ft deep x 45 foot wide rootball – now that is impressive, requiring a multitude of additional skills, not least irrigation some 40ft high into the tree itself!

Over the years we have met some truly wonderful people, who have a real passion, for flowers, or just orchids, or roses, or lawns, or even garden structures.

I remember building a gazebo for a client, who then asked for a copper roof, we then had to weather it so it went green quicker.

Or the client who’s passion was a weed free lawn – he would ‘swish’ the dew off the lawn every night before he went to bed !

Or the client who always tried to ‘scalp’ his lawn – the solution was to quietly add some washers to his mower settings and thus prevent the blades being set to low – not sure if he ever figured that out.

Or rose grower who tended his roses at night using a miners type lamp..

Or a lady who spent more than 8 hours everyday in her absolutely stunning perennial garden.

The one thing in common was that they derived a huge amount of peace and relaxation, working in the garden in touch with nature, it was like the ultimate stress release.

One of our radio show interviews touched on this when we discovered that research shows that woodland trees give of a chemical that we find calming as we walk through a woodland.

The point is they all had a passion that drove them to achieve results most of us would struggle with in all walks of life

In other words they got the maximum achievement out of each and everyday, and the garden helped them recharge their batteries just as a good nights sleep does !

I’ve always believed in attention to detail, striving to find the easiest yet pleasing on the eye finish to areas, using where ever possible natural materials, such as bricks, timber, wrought iron ( if you can find it), etc. to complete projects. When it comes to planting you cannot beat using a color wheel to develop contrasting colors schemes and have them blend with one another to create a complete picture.

If this all sounds familiar and you have a passion for gardening, no matter where, drop me a line and we will try and interview you for our show. It can be as short as a hello or as long as an hour, that’s really up to you.

In the meantime do tune in, as it’s digital radio you can listen anywhere, you will find Growing trends on www.cravingtalkradio.com daily at 1pm & 7pm central US time, or if you prefer using an app were on Live365.


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Edibles continued….

Continuing from our last blog, we move to a slightly larger herb and veggie garden. Using our newly patented Weekend Garden Kits.


We’ve also added some african marigolds to help keep pests away, our next one will include some nasturtiums to further help protect naturally.

This garden uses one of our recently patented Weekend Garden Kits, which helps save a huge amount of time, reduces significantly weed growth and helps preserve moisture levels.

By purchasing the kit early, you can use it to almost effortlessly remove weeds in your plot area – this is achieved quite simply by, marking out the area and then covering with a generous layer of old newspapers, place the weekend garden kit fabric over the newspaper and use the pegs provided to keep in position. After about 4- 6 weeks all the weed growth beneath will have been stopped and the earth should be almost clear.

Simply remove the newspapers, and any debris, reset the weekend garden kit, and plant as directed for the chosen layout.

The one above took less than 2 hours to plant  you can see how here.


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