A Season of Fresh Greens and Blooming Bulbs


The holidays can get away from us pretty easily with the many things that suddenly appear on the to-do list. There are some easy things you can do however to bring the magic of the holidays into your home without spending a lot of time or money. Here are some of my my fool-proof tips for making your home look holiday ready!

First the holiday pots! I know I have harped on this before, but it really is the easiest way to perk your home up for the season. Pick up a readymade pot of fresh greens, pot up a living evergreen that you can plant into the ground later or make up your own holiday container creation.

Making your own is easy – here’s a basic list of supplies to get you started:

  • 3 Evergreen bundles (1 cedar for skirting the edge, 2 other varieties, different textures, like pine and fir)
  • Spruce top or branches for height
  • 2 outdoor-safe berry picks
  • 3 pine cones






















Add to the basic recipe as much as you want: unbreakable outdoor ornaments, magnolia or juniper sprigs, lights or even a can of snow flock can be fun!

Fresh roping is another essential decorating tool for me. I always get several coils and put it everywhere – inside and out. Outside, wrap it up the banister and around the door, wind extra pieces around the light fixture and to fill in around the holiday pots you just made. Inside, drape roping over the sink window and mirrors; tuck sprigs in the guest bath, under place settings and on holiday packages.

For an easy centerpiece, find a large low bowl, set a single poinsettia (or 3 if they’re small) in the center, coil white pine roping around them to cover their pots and tuck pinecones in to fill in any gaps.

Firs and cedars are the most fragrant, however pine and boxwood tend to last longer.  Spraying greens with an anti-desiccant, such as Wilt-stop, will keep them fresher longer by sealing in the moisture, but does also seal in some of that fragrance too.

Additionally, think about buying extra and keeping a coil or two in a window well outside- when the first batch dries out, simply switch it out with the fresh.

Pot up some Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs to enjoy all winter long. These non-hardy bulbs are an easy, goof-proof way to have indoor blooms for months.

Paperwhites usually take about 4-6 weeks from bulb to bloom. Buy extra and start a second, or even a third batch, every couple weeks to have constant white flowers – they look great in a kitchen window!

Selecting Paperwhites:

  • Ziva: the original and still the favorite
  • Ariel: a shorter version of the original
  • Inbal: a less fragrant paperwhite

Rock or soil? If potting into a jar or vase (something without drain holes) use pea gravel or rock. If your pot has holes potting soil will be best.
























Amaryllis are the king of winter blooms with their large green leaves and velvety flowers.  ‘Red Lion’ is the all-time deep red classic but try other varieties too – whites, pinks and peach or variations of these in double and single blooms.


You can also find Erin’s article in the December issue of the The Kansas City Gardener.

Strong Roots (Shawnee Magazine)

This awesome article about us was published in the Shawnee Magazine’s fall/winter issue. Lookin’ good, Jonah and Jesse!

Eric Nelson’s father, Ron, chose horticulture over dentistry at Kansas State University nearly 50 years ago and started Family Tree Nursery. Eric, who ha been at the helm of the operation since 2007, now shares a unique common bond with his sons that he enjoyed with his dad: working side-by-side in the family business.

The successful Family Tree Nursery, with three retail locations throughout Kansas City, including Shawnee, Overland Park and Liberty, and a growing facility in Kansas City, Kansas, has more than 100 full- and part-time employees. That roster of plant geeks, as Eric likes to call the passionate folks who work at Family Tree Nursery, can swell up to 200 or more during peak seasonal periods.

Eric’s interest in nurturing plants started early in life, but it wasn’t until his sophomore year at K-State that he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt his studies in horticulture with an emphasis on greenhouse management were the right fit.

“At age 6 or 7, my dad told me I understood how to water plants better than some of his mature help,” recalls Eric. “I read botany and plants books growing up, and I think I knew something was up as far as my involvement in the family business, but it wasn’t until my second year in college that I realized I had never considered any other job than the family business.”

Now two of his three sons, Jonah, 26, and Jesse, 24, work alongside  him in a business that has survived and thrived over the decades despite economic downturns and the advent of mega-stores and large garden centers that sell plants. One of the keys to Family Tree Nursery’s positive growth over the years, including a rock-solid reputation for quality and genuine customer service, is a simple philosophy that Eric — and by osmosis, the rest of the company — lives by.

“Don’t let family get in the way of good business,” says Eric. “Family Tree Nursery has an excellent policy manual that specifically doesn’t favor family. Everyone here has to abide by the same policies regardless.”

Jonah followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, attending K-State’s horticulture program. Jesse studied international marketing and sales at K-State and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Eric’s oldest son, Josiah, 27, isn’t in the business, but he is a driven entrepreneur like his father and siblings, running a small coffee roaster.

Ron still acts as an adviser to Eric, who is owner and manager of Family Tree Nursery’s production facility while he has the pleasure of watching his own sons’ skill sets flourish — sometimes through trial and error.

“The commitment and love we have for one another gets us through any rough patch in the roaed,” says Eric.


Spruce up the Look of Fall

Now that we are full swing into fall, if you’re like me you are going to go to bed on Halloween night and wake up on January 1 with some well-rotted Jack-O-Lanterns.  And while we might be sad at the thought of another season ending, wipe those tears away, because now is the best time to get things planted, fed and decorated for the season.

Fall Up Your Pots

First things first- it’s time to refresh the front pots! Many annuals like Petunias, Geraniums and ‘Snow Princess’ Alyssum can take shockingly cool temps so salvage what you can and add Ornamental Cabbage, pumpkins and gourds, Creeping Jenny, Pansies and Ivy to jazz things up.







Add Fall Color to the Landscape

Now is still a great time to plant trees and shrubs. The ground around here won’t freeze solid until at least January (if at all) and anything you can plant can start to establish before the heat of summer. Some great plants to add fall color are Sweetspire, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Tiger Eye Sumac, Blackgum, Red Maple, Gingko, Beautyberry, Hardy Geranium, perennial Plumbago, Amsonia and Blueberries.




Plant Bulbs (Finally)


Every spring I tell myself that next year will be the year I plant banks of spring-blooming Tulips. But while Tulips are beautiful, here in the Midwest they should be treated more like an annual. Try Alliums and Daffodils instead! Both are bunny and deer resistant and reliably perennial! Allium, an ornamental onion, is most popular as the giant ‘Globemaster’ but available in many sizes and shades. And try planting white daffodils for an unexpected and elegant pop of spring color. All spring blooming bulbs need a cold period to bloom and so must be planted now. Its super easy – plant bulbs noses in the air, about 3 times deeper than the height of the bulb and just wait for the show.



Get Your Veggies Goingcool season 002

Just because you’ve pulled out your tomatoes does not mean that the veggie season is over. Many veggies not only tolerate but perform best in cooler temps. Now is the time to grow lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, kale, mustard, leeks, garlic and onions. Think of the salads and soups this fall! If temperatures dip below freezing throw a frost blanket over the tender leaves, especially lettuce, or try your hand at constructing a cold frame by hinging windows on the raised bed.



Add Ambience

The longer evenings of fall are just calling out for candlelight. But with kids… and pets…and curtains… real-flame candles can cause a major fire hazard. I am hooked on Luminara candles! They are a battery operated candle with such a realistic flame I guarantee someone will try to blow it out! Put some in lanterns by your front door and more inside in sconces, on the mantle- anywhere that reflects the dancing flame.






Feed the Lawn

If you only feed your lawn once, now is the time. In fall and winter, grass plants naturally want to thicken up, putting their energy into root and stem development. Simply put – grass will eat up all the food you give it without growing tall. Quick-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer, often called Winterizer, should be applied 2-3 times, 4 weeks apart.





You can also find Erin’s article in the November issue of the The Kansas City Gardener.

Simple Approach to Growing the Good Life

Recently I toured two of the most amazing landscapes I’ve ever seen – the kind of place that makes you feel like you just stepped into a magazine.

I walked around oohing and aahing over what must be some kind of out-of-this-world landscaping prowess – spectacular plants, the insane lack of any weeds and perfectly edged and mulched beds. Pictured here ar just a couple of inspiring images from that tour.

How’s the mere mortal gardener supposed to compete with that?

Well, my life gets in the way of replicating anything close to that level, BUT I can take away some elements from the magnificent to bring into my own yard. So I’ll be trying out these ideas:

Multiple Seating Areas

Both yards had expertly laid stone patios on multiple levels. But, although the stonework was impressive, what actually beckoned me in for a margarita were the cozy seating areas. A table for dining, yes, but also just an informal collection of chairs with a fire pit, or a bench with a couple outdoor pillows. Lots of lanterns, outdoor rugs and luminaria rounded out the fab look.




Tropical WOW

Both homes mingled exotic tropical into the perennial elements of the landscape. A big-leaved banana shooting up out of a bed of perennial Plumbago, a giant Macho Fern leading into a bed of Hosta or a giant Selloum Philodendron sunk into a garden bed. Adding tropical to the landscape adds texture, color and extra-special interest that set your yard apart. Want to try and keep them around for next season? Leave plants in pots and sink in the ground and either keep dormant in a garage or bring inside as a house plant depending on the plant.


All the Way Around

We usually think to landscape our front yard, maybe our back, but what I noticed about these yards is that they led you around with gardens throughout. They planted their yard…not an “area”. Arbors welcomed from the side yard and paths wrapped around full circle. Mary even landscaped her creek!





Containers in the Landscape

Pots aren’t just for the front door! Large containers are a great way to add architecture into the landscape. Just make sure that your arrangement is substantial enough to make an impact. If you have a smaller container you want to use, pair it with a larger one to make a statement. To keep large containers steady in the landscape, level a large paver stone first to set the pot on and then cover the paver with mulch.



You can find Erin’s article in the October issue of the The Kansas City Gardener.

Plant Spotlight -Asters

Now that it is finally starting to feel like fall it’s time to really get your home ready.


We have some of the best Asters we’ve ever grown. They are extremely hardy, double flowering blooms lasting longer and attract fewer insects. Growing in full sun-half shade, these blue and fuchsia colors are not traditionally found in mums, giving you the unique blue color in the fall. Asters are self-branching dwarf plants and won’t get out of control if you want to plant them in you garden.







A Summer of Favorites

As summer comes to a close and we start to think ahead to fall what will you remember from this season? I mean besides the crazy weather?

We are always told to make notes, keep a journal, take pictures- don’t know about you but I have yet to properly document a season.

So, I’m going to do the work for you…and for me. Here’s a list of my favorite plants this year- those that exceeded my expectations and I would recommend to anyone:

‘Gold Dust’ Mercadonia

Such a great plant! True confession… I actually killed all of these the first year I had these in the greenhouse because I thought (incorrectly) that they were delicate, little water lovers. Crazy drought-tolerant-  yellow flowers on a low-growing (under 6 inches), spreading plant. I grew them this year in pots and in the ground. One of my favorite potted flowers; still blooming well in my beds but almost too small (and getting eaten up by my petunias…)



‘Caliente Coral’ Ivy Geranium

Not your typical geranium girl but gave this one a try- awesome plant! Seriously intense coral blooms that have not quit all summer. Threw a pot together with my “leftovers” of the season and it has become my favorite patio collection.




‘Jade Princess’ Ornamental Millet

Ornamental is the key word here! Good looking, chartreuse foliage with huge, fuzzy “caterpillar’ blooms that I dare you not to touch. Perfect in beds or pots- I tried both.  Information for the plant has it reaching 3-4 feet tall but just FYI, I have never had it get over 2 feet at my house.




Tiger Fern

Yes, we all know ferns are easy-to-grow, low-maintenance, blah, blah, blah. But for those who think that a fern gets a little dull year after year you have to try this. The same care of a Boston fern but with wild variegated green and yellow foliage. Super color for darker, shadier spots, either alone or mixed with other things.



‘Surdiva’ Scaevola

Have yet to ever jump on the Scaevola bandwagon but this new cultivar knocked my socks off! Same purple fan-flower blooms but on a plant that actually drips over a pot instead of arming straight out.








‘Wasabi’, ‘El Brighto’, ‘Fingerpaint’ Coleus

All sun-tolerant coleus is pretty terrific—it can handle sun or shade and still look great all summer. There are A LOT of varieties now and choosing “the best” can be nearly impossible. These are the varieties that I am loving this year; they get big, they don’t break and they do not fade in sun!




‘Purple Flash’ Pepper

Deep purple variegated foliage on a compact and well-branched plant. Small round fruits ripen to red and pop against the dark background. You must plant this to really understand how cool it is! And at least this is a plant that the bunnies won’t eat…





And of course, I still have my “tried and true” favorites:

Dragonwing Begonias, Purslane, Ixora, Wandering Jew, Purple Heart, ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra and Persian Shield

Checklist To Seeding Your lawn

We have put together a checklist to make sure you have the best lawn in your neighborhood! Just follow these simple steps:

1.)  Mow the lawn short and bag clippings

2.)  Verticut or rake area to be seeded

De-thatch to allow seed better contact with soil

3.)  Sow seed with spreader for even application

   Overseeding                         Bare Soil

Bluegrass           1lb per 1,000 sqft                 2lbs per 1,000 sqft

Fescue                 5lbs per 1,000 sqft               10lbs per 1,000 sqft

4.)  Apply Family Tree Nursery Fall Rejuvenator+Seed Starter

The perfect boost for a tired lawn with AFT for better root development

5.)  Top dress with EZ-Straw to hold moisture and keep seed in place

6.)  Water! Water! Water! The most important step!

Water 2-3 times a day until seed germinates-seed can never dry out

7.)  Apply Family Tree Nursery Winterizer

Apply 4 weeks after new grass emerges and again 4 weeks later

Water Garden in a Container

001I have a slight confession to share… I have never been a fan of water gardens. It was a foreign world to me. A branch of horticulture with its own glossary of terms, specialized products and unique (and sometimes, strange looking) plants. I thought it took too much work—and it could smell…

In my “Negative Nancy” frame of mind (which can hit when the heat index skyrockets into double digits) I had unfairly erased the world of watering gardening from the available RAM inside my head. And then my friend and co-worker, Greg, shared with me the exciting world of container water gardening!

It was so cool! There is a way to have the feel of a water garden without all the trouble! Here’s how simple it is.

Start with a container-without drain holes. (I know…pretty obvious, but I always can use a reminder) Glazed can be the most attractive but there are a lot of great plastic choices now too.

Fill with water. Regular tap water is just fine. It’s the fish that makes things complicated…you can add small goldfish or mosquito fish but keep in mind that now your water garden is an aquarium and the water must be treated.

Add plants. One large plant for mega drama or pot up several into a basket and submerge. Read your plant tags and choose some that like the same depth level. (I have just recently started reading pond plant tage and they are highly informative—with pictures!) In general, most are happy sitting right at water level. Pot your combo up with aquatic soil to anchor the plants down without clouding up your water.

Here are a couple more things to consider:

Add some floaters. Floaters are plants that float on top of the water like Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce and Frogbit. They love the warm water of summer and multiply readily.

Add some movement. A spitter or small fountain is a great addition to your container water garden. It circulates the water while providing a relaxing touch of zen to the patio…hey I’ll take some zen anyway I can get it!

Add some Mosquito Dunks. Still water can quickly become a breeding ground for Mosquitoes- use the dunks!!!

Add some fertilizer. Pond plants want food too! But as Greg told me, “Fertilize the plants, not the water!” Use the fertilizer tabs designed for pond plants and push them down into the pot.

Plant Selection. Here is a list of my new favorite pond plants. Keep in mind that most blooming plants need at least 6 hours of sun to thrive, however some foliage plants are quite shade tolerant.

Water Lilies
Elephant Ears*
Creeping Jenny*

*=shade tolerant

You can find Erin’s article and others in the August issue of the Kansas City Gardener.