"Growing trees is as much an art as it is a science." - Becky Thomas
"When you plant a tree, you plant a legacy," - Pepper Provanzano
"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fall colors have finally decided to burst on the scene here in the nursery! The late summer warm temps with dry weather pushed fall dormancy back a bit on the calendar. We saw a delay in the field of trees going into dormancy which pushed back the start of fall digging. However, with a few nice rains and cooler temps these past few weeks, we finally were able to get in the swing of fall work. We are working hard to dig fall orders and load & deliver to customers. Hopefully the late arrival of this beautiful fall weather will not mean a quick arrival of winter! Time will tell…

Fall colors are at a peak in the nursery. Stop by for a visit!

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Did you know that in Illinois October is Oak Awareness Month? AKA OAKtober as designated by Gov. Bruce Rauner a few years ago. To celebrate, we would like to feature a few of our favorite new Oak hybrids here at the nursery.

For more on OAKtober, you can also check out this link from the Morton Arboretum: OAKtober 

For pictures & descriptions of the Oaks we are growing here at the nursery check out our Oak Photo Gallery 

American Dream Oak – Quercus bicolor ‘JFS-KW12’

50′ x 40′ – This new Swamp White Oak cultivar developed by J. Frank Schmidt Nursery was selected for strong resistance to anthracnose & powdery mildew resistance. As a grower, we love the branching consistency in the field. It also has a great shaggy bark with very glossy green leaves.

Streetspire Oak – Quercus robur x Q. alba ‘JFS-KW1QX’

45′ x 14′ – Similar to Crimson Spire Oak, it is another J. Frank Schmidt Nursery introduction. It differs in that it does not hold it’s foliage through winter. It has wider branch angles making it more storm resistant. The red fall color is another great feature of this tree.

Kindred Spirit Oak – Q. robur x Q. bicolor ‘Nadler’

30′ x 6′ – This Oak is one of the tightest columnar trees. It is a sister seedling to the Regal Prince but with a tighter form. The mildew & drought resistant features coupled with the form make it an excellent choice for narrow urban streets.

Heritage Oak – Quercus macdanielli ‘Clemons’ 

50′ x 40′ – The Heritage Oak has handsome dark green foliage which is very mildew resistant. It is an English and Bur Oak hybrid with excellent cold tolerance. The pyramidal form makes it a good street tree Oak.

American Dream Oak
American Dream Oak
Streetspire Oak
Streetspire Oak
Kindred Spirit Oak
Kindred Spirit Oak
Heritage Oak
Heritage Oak

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Not only is fall the season of football, hot cider, & changing leaves. But it also the season of colorful TAGGING TAPE! We love to see the beautiful combinations of fluorescent stripes, checkers, & polka dots decorating our tree rows in the field!

We have been busy tagging fall dig orders & soon we will be starting deciduous digging. Once the trees put on their final display of color for the season & go dormant, we can begin our fall dig. If you have an order to place for an upcoming project – don’t delay. We have some brightly colored tagging tape ready to go!

We also have a selection of trees above ground from our spring dig. Several varieties of trees are at risk for fall digging. We dug an extra supply in the spring so that we would have them ready for fall projects. Some of those trees that we still have available are Redbuds, Birch, Hawthorn, & Red Maple.

We hope to break out some bright tagging colors for you.  Our personal favorite is orange & blue stripe for the Illini!

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Fall digging will be in full swing soon! The evergreen digging will wrap up mid October, but deciduous digging will continue as long as the weather allows.  Now is the perfect time to get your fall order in so we can get you the trees you need in a timely manner.  We are already tagging trees for spring orders.  The tree supply will continue to be tight this next season, so we encourage you to place your orders for next season as soon as possible.  Early ordering will insure we get you the size & variety you are looking for without having to substitute. 

Pictured here are some scenes of past fall beauty in the nursery. Soon our fields will be bursting once again in a spectacular display of colors & textures that will evolve from day to day.

We invite you to stop by this season for a nursery tour. It’s a great time to see the variety and texture trees offer in the fall!

Impact Washington hosted by American Hort brought together growers from around the country for a 2 day event filled with advocacy & education. We heard from lawmakers about key issues that affect our industry, and we had the opportunity to meet in congressional offices and have more intimate conversations about how these issues impact our businesses. The experience was informative, productive, enlightening and quite frankly INSPIRING!

I wanted to summarize a bit of what we experienced and touch on the key points I feel are important to share with my fellow nursery growers. Critical issues are at play right now in Washington, and as an industry to need to be aware, be educated and mostly be united in conveying our message to both lawmakers and the public. This may be important now more that ever.

To start out just some background… American Hort hosted Impact 17 and 25 states were present representing a range of nursery operations and suppliers. Together we had over 150 congressional appointments scheduled. Illinois led the largest delegation with 15 of us attending. From IL we had the following companies represented:

  • Hortica – Traci Dooley
  • Home Nursery – Elvin Martinez, Ann Tosovsky, David Bender, Dennis Molitor
  • Midwest Ground Covers & Midwest Trading – Peter Orum, Christa Orum-Keller, Gary Knosher, Joe Hobson
  • Doty Nurseries – Ken Doty
  • Darwin Perennials – Mike Klopmeyer
  • Ball Publishing – Jennifer Zurko
  • Ball Horticultural – Marvin Miller
  • Spring Grove Nursery – Becky Thomas & Maggie Thomas 

There were 3 main issues we learned about and then advocated on behalf of our industry: Horticulture Research, Tax Reform and Immigration Reform. I think it is important to share some of the key points on each of these issues.

Horticulture Research

Nursery & greenhouse crops represent 15% of agriculture in the US, yet we receive less than 1% of total USDA research dollars. The research dollars we do receive are critical in allowing our industry to innovate and produce healthy crops. We specifically advocated for continued support of research dollars through USDA-ARS and the new Farm Bill. Read more about this issue here: Horticultural Research & Innovation

Tax Reform

Boring topic… maybe? Hard to fully understand sometimes… probably? Critical to our operations… ABSOLUTELY! Tax reform is front & center right now in Washington and there are several key items being tossed around which can directly impact our industry – both good & bad. It is imperative that we stay on top of any new reform proposals to insure our industry is protected. Most importantly we advocated for cash accounting & interest expense deductions to remain in place. We conveyed our support of repealing the Estate Tax. Read more about this issue here: Tax Reform

Immigration Reform

This is a hot button issue right now and will take the most work as an industry to push for. We need to become educated and convey our story. After attending Impact 17 it became obvious that there is a huge disconnect between the reality & the perception of this issue. But on the flip side, it became obvious that there is an incredible opportunity RIGHT NOW to make some progress on real immigration reforms.  I think our industry in particular has an important story to tell and one of the best things we can all be doing for our employees and our communities is to step up and work together for true labor reform. Here are some key points we learned which need to be shared:

  • Our industry is experiencing a labor shortage across the board – and the Senators & Representatives we met with said they are hearing that from other industries as well.
  • Our workforce is aging and the demographics in both the US & Mexico point to an aging workforce for years to come.
  • Unemployment in the US is currently 4.4% which is low
  • The US Dept of Labor released new numbers this week showing there are currently 6.17 million un-filled jobs in the US
  • Estimates show that over 50% of the current Ag workforce in the US may be illegally present. Some estimates show up to 12 million undocumented workers are currently in the US.
  • Every H2B seasonal worker creates & sustains 4.64 full time American jobs.
  • The lack of labor is inhibiting growth of business in the US

So those are a few key points to understand and convey. Through the conversations and talks we had these few days we heard over & over that a comprehensive immigration package which addresses all of the issues at once might be unlikely. We may have to look at the individual pieces of this separately to make some headway. And we may have to be willing to compromise on things to be able to move forward. There are some reform bills on the horizon and it is IMPERATIVE that as an industry we stay on top of this so that our concerns are heard and understood. We all know the green industry workforce is already tight If we want to keep the one we currently have and possibly grow it more, we need to be at the table when new programs are being designed. Read more about this issue here: Securing the Workforce

American Hort also put together some intelligent & relevant speakers for us to address these issues. The highlights were:

  • Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan – Mexican Ambassador to the US 2007-2013
  • Representative Rodney Davis – R-IL serving as Chairman of the House Ag Subcommittee on Biotech, Hort, & Research
  • Ray Starling – Special Asst. to the President for Ag, Trade and Food Assistance. He works directly with Sec of Ag Sonny Perdue
  • Senator Thom Tillis – NC Senator on Judiciary Committee working on immigration & visa programs

We also met with Senate & House offices. The IL team met with both Senator Durbin’s & Senator Duckworth’s aides. The meetings were extremely productive and well received. Then our team divided into two groups to meet with Representatives Rodney Davis, Shimkus, Bost, Lahood, Bustos, Roskam, Hultgren, Schnider, Danny Davis, Quigley and Guitierrez. In some cases we met the Representatives and in others their aides. Again all of the meetings were productive and it was apparent that more education about our industry was helpful for them to hear & understand. 

Going forward as a green industry in Illinois, we should all create opportunities to invite our Senators, Representatives and their staff into our operations. They want to understand these issues and see how their work in Washington affects our communities & businesses here in Illinois. Together we need to be united and involved in our state association, the Illinois Green Industry Association. The IGIA represents nurseries, greenhouses, landscapers, garden centers and green industry suppliers from across the state. Beyond that, American Hort represents our industry on a national level. Together our voices are more powerful in both Springfield & Washington. Through these associations you can also find access to the education and updates you need to stay on top of the issues that are going to affect your day to day operations and your employees.

I would be happy to talk more about any of these issues or the Impact event in general. Please feel free to call me at the office at 815-448-2097 to find out more about advocacy and how you can get involved.

I hope that you will join me in working together to make an IMPACT!

Becky Thomas

Below are a few pics from the Impact 17 Event – Enjoy!

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Advocating for green industry businesses is at the heart of what AmericanHort does for our green industry. The year 2017 has brought with it a new administration and new challenges and opportunities that impact the horticulture industry directly: immigration, labor, tax policy, pesticide regulation, among others.

In this new environment, our collective advocacy success will depend upon the horticulture business community paying attention to what is going on and taking action when needed. All politics are indeed local, and your voice can indeed Impact Washington.

Impact Washington is a two-day advocacy summit where green industry business owners and leaders can take action in Washington, D.C. Providing a united front, this is an opportunity for the landscaper, plant grower, garden retailer, and entire green industry communities to personally and collectively advocate for decisions that help us continue the growth of our $163 billion industry.

Over the course of two days, participants will hear from elected leaders, their staff, and other policy experts on issues of great impact on green industry business success. Our attendees will share their experiences directly with policy makers, providing real-world context and influence to the decisions being made.

Spring Grove Nursery is proud to be attending the summit next week. Along with a team from Illinois, we will represent our state and the issues important to us here in the Midwest. We will bring you an update on the latest from our Capital when we return next week.

Feel free to contact us for more info on how you can get involved in advocating for the green industry!

Impact Washington

Nursery in the Summer

The nursery grew through the summer nicely, and signs of fall are just around the corner! We spent the summer pruning, staking, spraying and counting trees. Regular rainfalls here and there came at the right times so our trees have had a good summer of growth. We will be preparing soon for fall digging and gearing up for the next season here at the nursery.

Fall is a great time to visit the nursery. We welcome you to come out anytime for a tour!

If you need trees for projects this summer or fall – chances are we have what you need!

Our Holding Yard is very well-maintained with all of the trees situated on drip irrigation to keep them looking fresh on your jobsite.  We are available for loading here at the nursery or we can offer delivery services as well.  Give us a call anytime to check availability & our loading/delivery schedule. We still have over 500 trees above ground here in our Holding Yard!

Please join us anytime at our nursery for a tour of the beautiful selection of trees ready to ship & growing in our fields for the future!

Holding yard July 2017

Walking through the nursery on a quiet summer evening brings all sorts of pleasant surprises. On this night, we caught a few Catalpa flowers in full bloom along with the ending blooms of Purple Robe Black Locust. 

A few rows over, we admired a young crop of Honeylocust & Elms. These were recently pruned and staked as needed – ready for next season. We have an amazing crop of 2″ Elms, Locust and Linden for this fall and next spring.

As we turned around to head back we were greeted by a colorful sunset over the Lindens. A perfect way to end the day!

Sunset in the Nursery
Sunset in the Nursery
Purple Catalpa Flowers
Purple Catalpa Flowers
Young Elms in the Nursery
Young Elms in the Nursery
Young Crop of Honeylocust
Young Crop of Honeylocust
Robinia Flowers
Robinia Flowers
Northern Catalpa Flowers
Northern Catalpa Flowers