Upcoming Shows

NJ Garden Show Schedule of Events

Trends in Landscape Design

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Bart Jackson were prepared for the February 18,

2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Ready for Spring? At a Price, You Can Have It Now

In a month when Garden State gardens lie under frozen earth, icy

pools, and sheets of snow, Persephone, Greek goddess of spring, awaits

her time to appear.

Yet mankind – always trying to edit the gods’ creations – has no

intention of waiting. From Thursday through Sunday, February 19

through 22, sweet Persephone shall be wrenched from her rest and

spring shall pervade the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison. More

than 150 exhibitors will haul in 1,000 truckloads of mulch and

planting material for the 1 million flowers, trees, and shrubs – all

magically in full bloom.

The annual New Jersey Flower Show shall sweep a new lush landscape

over the more than two acres of the convention center. Sprawling

2,000-square foot gardens, each manicured to evoke a different aura,

will blend with small booths draped in the luxuriance of orchids and

bonsai. It will become place to dream, plan, learn, and of course, to

buy. For these few days, visitors can bask in that splendorous season

just around the corner.

But spring is expensive. For those artisans who install this

unseasonable beauty before us, the investment of cash, time, skill,

and backbreaking labor is immense. In the West Trenton trailer office

of Thomas Lee Fisher Landscape & Nurseries, designer Russell Klockner

unfurls the master design of his "Rhapsody in Bloom" garden. Doing

some quick arithmetic in his head, he announces the final cost of this

showpiece will run about $50,000. Owner Tom Fisher winces, jams his

fingers in his ears and repeats loudly, "I don’t want to hear it. I

don’t want to hear it."

Last spring Fisher had been contacted by MAC Events, the show’s

presenter, and invited to exhibit. Given a 2,200 square-foot

footprint, Klockner began sketching and the design swiftly fell

together. Shrubs, waterpools, trees, and hosts of perennials were

planned. Then came the call.

MAC Events, a private show producer, had taken on a few more major

garden exhibitors and Fisher’s Rhapsody in Bloom was cut to 1,600

feet. Klockner wadded up the old plans and began anew. Yet the

slightly diminished space translated into virtually no lessening of

cost or labor. For Fisher’s crew, it remained a mammoth, if welcome,


Twenty-seven years ago, Ewing native Tom Fisher, after graduating from

Trenton State as a physical education major, decided he wanted to work

outside. Like most successful landscapers, he began with a pickup, a

shovel and a lawnmower. Quickly he won the kind of references that

only quality labor can achieve, and his business flourished. Four

years ago, he brought his boyhood friend Klockner onto the team to

help with landscape design.

For the past three years, they presented modest 300 square-foot

gardens at the Sovereign Bank Flower and Garden show with great

success. "Our last Sovereign show netted us 17 jobs of fair size,"

recalls Fisher." We had more than one person look at our garden and

say, ‘Give me this, right here, in my back yard.’"

Yet compared to all previous Fisher displays, launching Rhapsody in

Bloom in the state’s largest, most competitive show demands an

enormous logistical leap. Eight pallets of tan coventry paver brick

from Woodbury-based hardscaper E.P. Henry will first be trucked in and

laid out to form the central patio and edging. These will contain the


Then comes 30 cubic yards (six truckloads) of mulch followed by an

equal amount of styrofoam filler which will be judiciously hidden from

view. Most of this will arch into a high berm encasing a wrought iron

pavilion. Azaleas and colorful mixed perennials, all forced to full

bloom will be precisely set in the mulch as a background. Huge

yard-high pots will surround the pavilion with climbing roses and

clustered daisies. When finally hefted into place, all these will

create a romantic niche for a quiet lovers’ dinner or the wedding that

may just succeed it.

From this end, the brick leads down to more pallets of a natural

tumbled bluestone amid which workers will set the two six-foot pools,

their fountains, and the 14-foot flowering shadblow trees towering

over each. Framed with fearful symmetry sits a delicately curved

Luteens bench, hemmed by potted jasmine and swards of fragrant lemon

thyme. Luteens was a contemporary of Chippendale whose wood furniture

was renowned for grace and flourish, explains Klockner. An ideal focal

piece, he sanded and finished it to just the right hue.

"This display has what I call an English feel," assesses Klockner,

"color heavy and varied. But it cannot be called a formal English

garden. I see it more of a setting for romance." While the distinction

may be a fine one, it has been honed by the designer’s training both

here and in Britain.

A nickel a weed was what Donald Klockner paid his young nephew Russell

to clean the grounds of his 50-year-old farm and wholesale nursery, in

Lawrenceville. Klockner Farms began burgeoning in the

Hamilton-Lawrenceville area when Russell’s great-great-grandfather

first settled and tilled acreage in Hamilton. Today, the family name

survives on Klockner Road, several small cultivated parcels, and the

more than 130 family members who turned up at the last reunion.

Seeking a more refined scope of horticulture and landscape design,

Klockner began taking courses at Mercer County Community College. But

within a year, photos of the legendary Chelsea Gardens lured him

across the pond to the rural village of Rumsey in Surrey, England.

Here, joining a trade school and working at the famed Hilliers

Nursery, Klockner soaked up skill and developed artistry. He studied

and practiced everything from ancient methods of grafting to the

latest techniques of bare-root planting. He returned to his hometown a

much sought-after designer.

Ten days prior to the show, Klockner and Fisher stand in the West

Trenton greenhouse, reviewing the plantings. Of the seven blue

spruces, two are hopelessly ratty. They must hastily shop for a couple

of seven-footers of matching size and shape. The boxwoods have come

forced into full bud and should just blossom for show time. Planting

started in September and grew serious in October. Since then it has

been daily tending of plants and tending to details. Has that supplier

delivered the bronze cherub yet?

Come February 16, Fisher and Klockner and a 10-person crew were

scheduled to move into the Sheraton Hotel in Edison and plunge into

three grueling 20-hour days of preparation. Along with the plants and

material, lighting, water and electric power will all be subtly

placed. If the labor and luck blend together, the result will be

magical. However, regardless of all the planning and effort, a few sly

tricks from unseen forces could wither merry May swiftly into bleak

November on opening day.

When scientists are overwhelmed by a challenge, they throw up their

hands and call it art. Forcing flowers is truly an art. Even in this

age of vast garden hothouses we can only edit, not script a plant’s

blooming cycle. Getting 8,000 mixed annuals to all blossom into full

flower on February 19 – not the 18th, mind you – requires the skill of

the artist, not to mention several hecatombs offered to Dame Nature.

To bring a tulip or full size dogwood into flower a month ahead of its

natural season entails juggling planting time, temperature cycles

(both in the greenhouse and the show site,) sunlight, humidity,

watering schedules, special fertilizing cocktails, and a body of

recorded observations that no scientific recipe can encompass.

Within the trade, Joe Cugliotta Landscape/Nursery of Southampton is

the one the professionals turn to for help. For the last 20 years,

Cugliotta’s firm has exhibited at the big one – the Philadelphia

Flower Show – with thousands of blooms all remaining elegantly

unfolded for the whole week. This year Fisher Landscaping asked him to

force their two large shadblow trees into full flower for the February

19 New Jersey show. Four days is a stretch for these blooms. In fact,

had Klockner been displaying for the full seven days at Philadelphia,

he would have had to have back up trees ready to install midweek.

"Successful forcing is partly a feel, partly a sense," says Cugliotta,

"but it’s all based in years of endless notes." Slowly the landscaper

begins to develop a list of items which bloom closest to the season of

a particular show. In a mid-February garden you want to select early

bloomers: forsythia, daffodils, cherry, pears, and the like.

Basically, the planter begins by counting backwards. If a plant takes

six weeks to blossom in the greenhouse; plant accordingly. If it needs

to lie dormant for another eight weeks, drop back two more months and

place the plugs in a refrigerator unit at 36 degrees.

Yet is not a simple matter to fool a plant into believing it’s spring

in a green house. To stimulate the roots at the same rate as the

leaves, Cugliotta has installed a heated floor in some greenhouses.

Toasty soil lulls plants into a sense of May. To supply the plants’

required CO2, he runs a gas burner that adjusts the air chemistry.

When it comes to lighting, Cugliotta notes, "plants are stimulated to

grow not by the length of the day, but by the shortness of night."

This seemingly oxymoronic statement is explained by the landscaper’s

lighting schedule. From 7 a.m. to five p.m. the plants receive natural

sunlight. Then from 10 p.m. to two a.m., the 1,000-watt sodium

greenhouse lights burst on for four hours. This splits the 24-hour day

into two short five-hour nights, simulating the plants’ high growing


For Thomas Lee Fisher Landscaping, flowers are not the only thing

being forced. For the past two years, business has burgeoned into full

bloom, requiring Fisher to add the five acres in West Trenton to his

10-acre base in Ewing. On this site along Route 29, the very week of

the show, they will break ground on a new retail outlet: Fisher’s

Riverview Nursery.

Klockner’s wife, Delores, a trained horticulturist in her own right,

will help develop much of the stock and Fisher’s wife, Maryann, and

sons, Brian and Eric, will shift from the heavier work of landscaping

to retail. Off season Fisher plans a Christmas store.

Amidst all this expansion work, Fisher finds himself asking the

question that plagues every major garden exhibitor: is it all worth

it? The bills roll in endlessly – $8,000 worth of perennial plantings,

plus brick, stone, iron pavilions, fountains, pumps, a wooden bench,

and bronze statues, not to mention the labor. MAC Events provides

exhibitors the floor space for free, but all water, electricity and

convention center labor cost dearly. Massive gardens are indeed a very

expensive and somewhat dubious form of advertising.

Most landscape companies respond to these doubts with the same

question. What are the alternatives? Most new business in this field

comes from word of mouth. While the ads in local and regional papers

and the yellow pages are deemed obligatory, they seldom generate large

jobs. If a landscaper is ever going to set himself above the pickup

and lawnmower competition, he must take a deep breath and splash into

a show in full colors.

It is discouraging to see thousands file past your garden, ooh and ahh

in wonder, and then discard your brochure before they reach the

parking lot. However, contracts do get signed. As the result of the

$50,000 Cugliotta put into one show, a Princeton man offered him a job

for $185,000. Fisher and Klockner hope to far exceed the 17 jobs they

received from the smaller previous show. Rule of thumb states the

bigger the show, the larger the resulting work.

Fisher and Klockner dream of the horticultural Super Bowl – the

renowned Philadelphia Flower Show. Certainly the labor and expertise

would be no more demanding, and the cost might actually be less.

Instead of a private producer, Philadelphia is sponsored by the

Philadelphia Horticultural Society. It is actually a fund raiser,

garnering about $1 million annually for its Philadelphia Green effort,

which enhances the city’s urban gardens and open spaces. As a

stimulus, the PHS offers subsidies to major garden exhibiters, such as

Cugliotta, which make such large-scale beauty affordable.

Yet in the end, most landscapers see the shows as less of an

investment than as a chance to create a masterpiece. This is their

chance to show the public and their peers what they can do. If your

large garden is one of the favored ones to win a ribbon, the

gratification far exceeds the prize money. As Cugliotta put it,

"Rather than ‘he ran a great business,’ I would rather my tombstone

say, ‘he created a great deal of beauty.’"

Thomas Lee Fisher Landscaping, 758 1/2 River Road, West

Trenton 08628. 609-637-0040. Www.tlflandscaping.com.

Joe Cugliotta Landscaping/Nursery 1982 Route 206,

Southampton 08088. 609-859-9333. Www.cugliottalandscaping.com.

Top Of Page
Upcoming Shows

Flower Show of New Jersey, Thursday, February 19, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.;

Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and

Sunday, February 22, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., NJ Convention Center, Edison.

Cost: $11. 800-332-3976. Www.MACevents.com.

The Philadelphia Flower Show runs from Sunday to Sunday, March 7 to

14, at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Cost: $20. 215-988-8899.


Top Of Page
NJ Garden Show Schedule of Events

February 19 (Room A)

1:30 p.m.: Ross Karr, horticulturalist, RCE of Middlesex County,

"Basic Pruning Tips for Trees and Shrubs."

2:30 p.m.: Dr. Joseph Heckman, soil fertility specialist, RCE,

"Understanding Your Soil Test Report."

3:30 p.m.: Peter Nitzsche, agricultural agent, associate professor,

RCE of Morris County, "Growing the Very Best Jersey Tomatoes."

4:30 p.m.: Bill Hlubik, agricultural agent, associate professor, RCE

of Middlesex County, and host of "If Plants Could Talk" on NJN/PBS,

"Earthwise Lawn Care."

5:30 p.m.: Bruce Barbour, environmental program leader, RCE of Morris

County, "Environmental Issues for New Jersey Gardeners."

6:30 p.m.: Donna Pemberton, program assistant, RCE of Middlesex

County, "Ten Great Roses for Your Garden."

7:30 p.m.: Clare Liptak, horticulturist, certified tree expert with 27

years experience in RCE, "Inviting the Good Bugs to Your Yard."

February 19 (Room B)

Noon: Joni Bronander, "How to Plan the Perfect Outdoor Party Complete

with Table Settings, Menus, and Flowers."

1 p.m.: Ralph Snodsmith, "Gardening Problems, Potting Mixes, and

Ralph’s ‘Box of Tricks.’"

2 to 5 p.m.: Joan Hamburg and Arthur Schwartz, live taping of "Weekend

with Joan Hamburg and Arthur Schwartz."

6 p.m.: Dave Daehnke, "The Gardening Guru," talks about the fragrances

and foliage of scented geraniums.

7 p.m.: New Jersey Audubon Society, "How to Attract Birds and

Butterflies to Your Backyard Habitat."

February 20 (Room A)

11:30 a.m.: Mary Cummings, program associate, agriculture, RCE of

Gloucester County, "Backyard Composting."

12:30 p.m.: Michelle Infante-Casella, agricultural agent, RCE of

Gloucester County, "Edible and Ornamental Landscape Plants."

1:30 p.m.: Dr. Gary Pavlis, agricultural agent, RCE of Atlantic

County, "Growing Grapes in New Jersey."

2:30 p.m.: Ross Karr, horticulturalist, RCE of Middlesex County,

"Basic Pruning Tips for Trees and Shrubs."

3:30 p.m.: Karen Ensle, family and consumer science agent, associate

professor, RCE of Union County, "Step Up to a Colorful Plate –

Nutritional Bounty from the Garden."

4:30 p.m.: Daniel Kluchinski, agricultural agent, associate professor,

department chair for the agricultural and resource management agents,

RCE, "Five Steps to Better Garden Soils."

5:30 p.m.: Annette Capp, program associate in agriculture, RCE of

Mercer County, "Easy Care Long Blooming Perennials."

6:30 p.m.: Bill Hlubik, agricultural agent, associate professor, RCE

of Middlesex County and host of "If Plants Could Talk" on NJN/PBS,

"Earthwise Lawn Care."

7:30 p.m.: Rich Weidman, program associate in agriculture, RCE of

Middlesex County, "Garden Pest Control 101."

February 20 (Room B)

11 a.m.: Laura Palmer, "The Open Days Program of The Garden


Noon to 2 p.m.: Thomas Yanisko and Stephen J. Moir, "Jersey Shore

Chefs – Cooking Demonstrations and Tastings."

2 p.m.: Ralph Snodsmith, "Gardening Problems, Potting Mixes, and

Ralph’s ‘Box of Tricks.’"

3 p.m.: Pamela Wilson, Morris County Parks System.

4 p.m.: New Jersey Audubon Society, "How to Attract Birds and

Butterflies to Your Backyard Habitat."

6 p.m.: Carol Berman, "The Wine Chick," "Wine Tastings and Talk."

February 21 (Room A)

11:30 a.m.: Bill Hlubik, agricultural agent, associate professor, RCE

of Middlesex County, and host of "If Plants Could Talk" on NJN/PBS,

"How to Avoid Common Landscape Problems."

12:30 p.m.: Daryl Minch, family and consumer science agent, RCE,

Somerset County, "Colorful Fruits and Vegetables for Health."

1:30 p.m.: Dr. George Hamilton, specialist in pesticides, RCE,

"Flowers That Attract Beneficial Insects."

2:30 p.m.: Donna Pemberton, program associate in agriculture, RCE of

Middlesex County, "Easy to Make Herb Vinegars."

3:30 p.m.: Mary Eklund, program associate in agriculture, RCE of

Camden County, "Growing Orchids Workshop."

4:30 p.m.: Richard Obal, agricultural agent, associate professor, RCE

of Monmouth County, "Exotic Conifers and Broadleaf Plants for the


5:30 p.m.: Ken Karamichael, Rutgers home gardeners school coordinator,

"RU Connected? Online Gardening Resources for the Garden State."

7:30 p.m.: Clare Liptak, "Inviting the Good Bugs to Your Yard."

February 21 (Room B)

11 a.m.: Cathy Miller, author of "Harvesting, Preserving, and

Arranging Dried Flowers," shows how to preserve and arrange your

garden flowers.

Noon: Chris Mumford, cooking demonstration and tasting.

1 p.m.: Vicki Caparulo, cooking demonstration and cookbook signing.

2 p.m.: Ralph Snodsmith, "Gardening Problems, Potting Mixes, and

Ralph’s ‘Box of Tricks.’"

4 p.m.: Caroline Seebohm, slide show of her book, "Great Houses and

Gardens of New Jersey."

6 p.m.: New Jersey Audubon Society, "How to Attract Birds and

Butterflies to Your Backyard Habitat."

February 22 (Room A)

11:30 a.m.: Teresa Knipper, master gardener, Mercer County, "It’s Easy

to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden."

12:30 p.m.: Richard Obal, agricultural agent, RCE of Monmouth County,

"Great Trees for Jersey Landscapes."

1:30 p.m.: Annette Capp, program associate in agriculture, RCE of

Mercer County, "Spicing Up Your Flower Garden: Mix of Perennials and

Annuals and Aspects of Design."

2:30 p.m.: Annette Capp, program associate in agriculture, RCE of

Mercer County, "Designing a Children’s Garden."

3:30 p.m.: Rich Weidman, program associate in agriculture, RCE of

Middlesex County, "Using Beneficial Insects In Your Garden."

February 22 (Room B)

11 a.m.: New Jersey Audubon Society, "How to Attract Birds and

Butterflies to Your Backyard Habitat."

Noon: Carol Berman, "The Wine Chick," "Wine Tastings and Talk."

2 p.m.: Ralph Snodsmith, "Gardening Problems, Potting Mixes, and

Ralph’s ‘Box of Tricks.’"

4 p.m.: New Jersey Audubon Society, "How to Attract Birds and

Butterflies to Your Backyard Habitat."

Top Of Page
Trends in Landscape Design

If you’ve been bugged by all those broad landscaping trucks blocking

your neighborhood streets these past two years, blame it on 9/11.

While the economy has sent joblessness spiraling upward, those who

have jobs still hold ample discretionary cash that they are spending

in their own back yards. The 9/11 mindset has turned us inward, and

the money that was previously spent venturing abroad is now going to a

blossoming landscape industry. With it has come a shift in outdoor

decor trends:

Water, water everywhere. Pools and fountains, even small ponds are

increasingly desired as a central feature. The softer, more natural

Japanese style of water flowing over stone and moss seems to be

preferred to the sculpted gushing fountain. Also, ingenious ponds fed

by rooftop drainage are catching on.

Perennials. With both spouses working all day, folks want to come home

to beauty, but they don’t want to invest great labor in it. Bulbs and

any flower that can be counted on year after year, with a minimum of

maintenance is desired.

Patios and decking. Every device that moves us comfortably into the

outdoors, but close to our indoors is popular. Fascinating new outside

furniture sells rapidly, permanent barbecue grills do not.

From outside in. More and more gardens are planted with an eye for

producing cuttings that can be brought indoors. Gardens with

overlapping bloom cycles are currently favored.

Ornamental grasses. Tall broomgrass and other wispy, eye-catching

plantings are still favored as features of contrast around both rock

and flower gardens.

But wildlife gardens have plateaued. Gardens and meadows that draw the

birds and bees are still popular, but there are only so many butterfly

bushes you can plant and most already have been.

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