Interview: Gardening Tips With Arnold Falk

Monday, March 15th, 2010

One of the best things about Spring is the beautiful flowers and vegetation. While there are plenty of pretty plants throughout the Fraser Valley, if you want them in your own backyard it will take a bit of work. With all the plant varieties, weather variables and technical knowledge needed, gardening can be overwhelming.  We asked local nursery owner, Arnold Falk, for advice on gardening in the Fraser Valley climate.

Arnold, his wife, Brenda, and daughter Lauren run a boutique nursery, Tanglebank, located in Abbotsford. The couple have been avid gardeners for 25 years and opened their own nursery 14 years ago.

Given the very warm winter we’ve just experienced, should typical springtime planting/gardening start earlier this year?

Here in the Fraser Valley I recommend that as long as you can work the soil, go ahead and plant. Mind you, you don’t want to plant annuals at this time because it’s still too cold, but you can start planting trees, shrubs and hardy perennials. I’ve even planted some of my garden beds in December and January. I actually prefer it because it’s a lot cooler and I don’t have to water.

The biggest challenge will be finding a good variety of nursery stock, as the Garden Centres are not fully stocked right now.  If you find something you like, start digging.

What are some easy to maintain outdoor bushes/plants that work well in the Fraser Valley climate?

The variety of plants that work well and are easy to maintain in our climate is almost endless. For winter colour you can’t beat winter flowering heather. Kramer’s Red, Mary Helen and Springwood White are all garden classics. All these plants require for maintenance is a light shearing to remove old flower blossoms which will keep them nice and compact.  For trees I really like flowering Dogwoods (Cornus); two outstanding varieties are Cornus ‘Kousa’ and Cornus ‘Venus’.  Japanese Maples are another low maintenance tree which work very well here.  For summer colour I would go for Hydrangea. It’s a very easy shrub to grow that only requires a light pruning once a year to keep it tidy.

Ornamental grasses are still growing in popularity. They fall into two categories, cool season which means they begin their growth in early spring and warm season where their growth cycle begins as the temperature starts to warm. Cool season would include varieties like ‘Elijah Blue’, ‘Blue Oat Grass’ and ‘Bulbous Oat Grass’. Warm season varieties would include ‘Japanese Blood Grass’ and the ‘Miscanthus’ group of grasses.

I’m new to gardening – where do I start?  Annuals vs perennials?  Help!

When I first started gardening, my flower of choice was the marigold. I had them planted everywhere. I don’t think it matters what you start out gardening with as long as you like the plants. Keep in mind though annuals have to be planted every year and perennials will come back year after year.I encourage my customers to use both annuals and perennials in their flower beds. Perennials only bloom for a season; annuals go from summer to frost.  If you’re new to gardening, keep it simple.

At what time of year should one plant a herb/vegetable garden?

You could start planting the vegetable garden this month, just make sure you have raised beds of 8 to 10 inches as well good soil preparation and drainage. You could start your peas, radishes, spinach and broad beans now as well as your hardy herbs such as chives, mint, welsh onion and sage.  You might want to keep some row cloth on hand to protect your seedlings from frost as March weather can be a little fickle.

Not everyone has a yard to garden in.  What are some easy Spring/Summer flowers to grow in planter/window boxes?

When it comes to planting containers you can use just about anything. We’ve used small shrubs and even small trees in our plantings. There aren’t really any rules.  To make it easy you could use the annual geraniums for flower boxes, it’s a classic look and so easy to look after. The Proven Winner line of annuals is also great for window boxes and containers. Ornamental grasses, Euphorbia, Black Eyed Susan, Blanket Flower are all good for containers. Ferns, Hosta, ivy and hardy fuchsia work great for containers in shaded areas.

What are three simple pieces of advice to new gardeners?

  1. Shop for your garden all year. Most people have a garden that looks good in spring but boring the rest of the year. Here in the Fraser Valley, we can have a garden that looks good all year. Don’t buy all your plants in spring. Tour public gardens and garden centres through the changing seasons and see what’s in bloom and plant accordingly.
  2. Slow down and enjoy the garden. This is supposed to be a hobby so relax and enjoy it. I like nothing better than wandering through my garden and looking at all the things I planted twenty years ago, it’s like watching your kids grow.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get dirty, it washes off.

TangleBank Nurseries
29985 Downes Road, Abbotsford
Ring: 604.856.9339

Contributor: Kelly Neufeld

Kelly Neufeld is a freelance writer who lives in Abbotsford with her husband and their two daughters. In addition to writing articles for the Fraser Valley Pulse, Kelly is a contributing writer & Marketing Coordinator for Impowerage Magazine. She enjoys spending time with her family, staying active and shopping.

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