Ron Ludekens

Ron Ludekens

Monday, 31 August 2009 03:00

Peach Ice Cream

This is a catch up blog from July - been traveling too much to keep up to date.

Photo is of Lloyd Cassidy (Northern California Territory Manager) picking tree ripened peaches (and apricots and nectarines) to make home made peach ice cream for our office potluck.  FYI - we only hire people who can cooke (pun intended).

This budwood orchard is one of several around the nursery.  Right next to the main office is the large Research Orchard where we can find fresh fruit from May through November.  It is a nice extra perk for those of us who like fresh fruit.

All combined, we have over 47 acres of budwood/scion wood orchards.  There are over 26,000 records of trees, shrubs and vines that we individually track and maintain.  This is a huge expense that we feel necessary to assure trees are true to name and where applicable, virus certified.

Tomorrow I will follow up with a story about our Honduran interns' first experience with home made ice cream.

Monday, 24 August 2009 03:00

From Valley to Mountains to Valley Again

I scheduled too much for today and did not think it possible to really do - or at least do well.  My goal was to visit every customer from Central Point/Medford Oregon through Mount Shasta, California.

 Ten visits and surprisingly no tickets later I am in Redding (hot - already miss the Oregon weather!).  Unfortunately a few owners were not it, so a few visits were shorter than desired - allowing me to get to my last appointment before closing.

 I grabbed the camera twice for quick snapshots.  

This is what you see driving up to Four Seasons Nursery in Central Point, Oregon - right alongside the Crater Lake Highway.  Impressive hanging flower baskets all along the front and side of the nursery.  I should have taken time to walk down the road and catch the whole front - but time was not on my side.

As the day came close to the end, I snagged a photo at Spring Hill Nursery in Mount Shasta. 

The entrance to the nursery is being covered by Wisteria.  Would love to see it next spring.  This helps to show how hardy Wisteria is as it gets real cold here on the slopes of Mount Shasta in the winter.

Saturday, 22 August 2009 03:00

Farwest Show

Mike Spratley and I finished the Farwest Trade Show last Thursday through today (Saturday).  As usual, met a lot of old friends and made a few new ones.  I decided you did not need a photo of us standing in our booth so I didn't take one. 

As for the show, it was the first time I have been disappointed in this show - it clearly reflected the economy.  What I missed most was all the friends who usually travel from other parts of the country but stayed home this year.

 The bright spot - the trend to increase sales of fruit trees, grapes and berries continues.  There was a lot of interest in the edible fruits and that was the area where we wrote the most orders at the show.

Tomorrow (Sunday) - I take a personal day set aside for photography.  Following the North Umpqua  River from Roseburg to Crater Lake and the Rogue River back to Medford.  Whatever photos I take can eventually be seen on my personal photo site:  But knowing my schedule, it might be months before I get them finished and posted. I'm looking forward to this trip!

Monday, 17 August 2009 03:00

A Garden or a Garden Center?

Today I was again dumbfounded by a hidden gem of a nursery, far from the normal flow of traffic.

Singing Tree Gardens was supposed to be closed today but I thought I would drive by to take a look anyway.  Fortunately, the gate was open waiting for a service company and I drove in.  Otherwise I could not see the nursery from the road because of a long, winding driveway.

 I am thankful that Don did not throw me out when I showed up and was not the expected repair man.  Instead he showed me their incredible display gardens, showcasing trees and shrubs in landscape settings with the canned products displayed as it might go in your home landscape.  What an inspiration for the homeowners!!!

 I do not know if they rent out for weddings, but these were beautiful display gardens suitable for events of that caliber.

I'm glad (for my sake anyway) that the repair man was 2 hours late because that is how much time I spent admiring the gardens and photographing them.

One product we sell a lot of is the Forest Pansy Redbud.  In our hot climate, they grow just fine but do not hold the red-purple color in the foliage.  Not a problem in McKinleyville.  Take a look at this gorgeous tree!


If you are ever in the McKinleyville, California area, be inspired at Singing Tree Gardens. 




Saturday, 15 August 2009 03:00

Success in Small Communities

Making Your Presence Known

Teaser photo:

We have a number of customers along the scenic Sonoma and Mendocino coastline.  I had to see  how how some of these small communities of 300 to 600 people can support two to four nurseries each.

Each one has their own story.  Here are just two.

Tony Ventrella tells me how his Gualala Nursery on the northern outskirts of Gualala seemed to be nearly invisible to the motorists accelerating up the grade after leaving town.  Even his friends missed him waving as they passed by.

His creative solution is to display and sell dinosaurs and other huge, metallic, artstic sculptures from the nursery. 

Now all the "kids" in us have got to stop and take a look.  

Once touring the nursery, dinosaur lovers pick up a few more manageable purchases to take home with them.  And every once in a while one of those huge behemoths sell and ship home to their own Jurassic Park.  Of course Tony supplements his income with a successful landscaping business.

 Display Gardens

Another nursery that blew me away is Digging Dog Nursery in Albion.  They occasionally buy a few things from us so I thought I'd pay a visit.  I sure did not expect much - especially after trying to find the way off the main highway.

What a pleasant surprise!  Here is a place that makes a living through mail order - mostly self grown plants suitable for the UPS handlers which explains why they do not buy a lot of our trees.   But the owner, Gary, also does landscaping.  To show his prospective clients what a finished tree or plant looks like at maturity, Gary has created a full display garden with tall hedges, grass walk ways, arches - a full English like garden.  It was stunning and so unexpected.

His employees proudly explained how they were recently featured in the Fine Gardening Magazine.  I agree - a great place to photograph and show off horticultural products and landscaping talent.  I applaud such greatwork!  If you are in the Albion area, I recommend taking a look.

None of these nurseries order a lot of trees by themselves, but when you put it all together, it justifies running a a truck up the coasline.  I wonder if the office would miss me if I drove the truck next January?  Would love to see the picturesque rugged coast with the winter storms.  On the other hand, a 24 foot bobtail might not fit where I sometimes park my Nissan Sentra to get those scenic shots.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009 03:00

On the Road Again

Tomorrow I start a 12 day sales trip which will include assisting Mike at the Farwest Trade Show in Portland.

My camera begged me to take the scenic route. So I am calling on customers from Clear Lake, Highway 1 up to Fort Bragg, Highway 101 also known as the Redwood Highway from Healdsburg through the upper Oregon coast. It will be an incredibly scenic trip. The camera will sneak out of the bag occasionally, but since I will average 8 to 10 customer visits a day, most of the photos will happen in the early hours before the nurseries open and in the evenings. But those are the "Golden Hours" for the best photographic light so that is OK.

If time permits, I might share a few sights along the way.

Friday, 14 August 2009 03:00

Labor of Love - the Making of a Business.

 First the teaser photo:

On this 12 day trip I figured I might take a few snapshots of customer sites along the way and share them.  Day 1 started yesterday at 2:30 AM with a 6 hour drive and then 9 visits.  No time for photos.  Today started much later but 10 busy visits and a few photos.  The dilemma: how do I not offend some by not showing their sites along with the others?  After all, there are incredibly large, successful high end nurseries, and newer, smaller ones.  And everyone is working their tails off to be successful.

So with a little wisdom, I've decided not to attempt to post many customer site photos at this time.  Besides - I'm beat at the end of the day.  But I had to share this experience from today.

About the photo: I had an interesting visit with a couple that is new to the nursery business.  Last year Love Farms in Healdsburg bought a number of fruit trees and grapevines.  So I decided to stop by and see what's up.

I met Ron Love and his wife Bibiana.  They are Organic Farmers, eeking out a living by starting a new organic farm and working other jobs at the same time.  Some of the trees they planted and the others were or are being sold in their roadside nursery.

What I like about our industry are the wonderful people who are so down to earth and friendly.  Ron showed me his farm, and the new cleared land for the next planting.  Bibiana was canning tomatoes.  Life looked like it was currently lived on a shoe string.  Yet Ron bragged about his farmers market paying off his substantial start up costs.  A lot of melons moved by hand with sore backs accomplished that feat. 

After discussing tree care and the challenges of the nursery business, Bibiana wanted to give me a gift before I left.

Yesterday, their Ostrich layed this egg.  I've seen photos but never held such a humoungous thing.  Although I really did want to take it to show my grand daughters, I figured this large egg rolling around my hot car for 10 more days was not a very wise thing to do.  So I left the egg with the Loves to do with it whatever you do with eggs this large.  Omlette anyone?

And here is the big bird that layed it.   It was eating unsellable melons. 

Amazing to see quarter mellon sized chunks of rind bulging down its skinny long neck.



Amazing creature. 

I appreciate the work ethic of the Loves.  Over the many, many years, we have  developed long friendships with people who work hard to build a successful business and livelihood.  I wish them well.


Tuesday, 04 August 2009 03:00

Persimmon Fruit Drop

Homeowners often call their local nursery with a question:  Why does my Persimmon Tree drop its fruit at an immature stage?

Juvenile Persimmons


On a mature tree, first choice is often excess nitrogen/fertilizers.  Second is over watering.  Most often I see the problem with Persimmons planted in a lawn where both happen.  A third option is not enough sun - planted in too much shade.

More indepth information can be found at these links:

CRFG Persimmon Fruit Facts

Plant Answers - Persimmons

Plant Forum on Persimmon Fertilizing  


Another area to consider - a young persimmon is not going to produce very tasty fruit until it is a few years old.  A heavy set of fruit on a young tree steals the nutrients needed for growing the tree and puts it into fruit growth.  A wise person who wants a more mature tree sooner would strip off the fruit for a few years and enjoy the feast the 3rd and later years.  If nothing else, he should radically thin the fruit on that young tree.

Monday, 31 August 2009 03:00

The Benefits of Trees

Frequently we receive requests from nurseries and other people trying to quantify the value of trees in the landscape or to the environment.  Those of us in the industry know how hugely important trees are for the environment and the local economy.  But how do you quantify it - especially if you are talking to your local governmental authority that controls the budget for their urban forests or state legislatures trying to solve their budget crises?

The following websites crossed my desk in recent weeks and I thought they were well done and answers many of these questions .

So without boring you with my prose, just jump to the links below:

This is a nice tool which calculates the value of a tree.  It is easy to use.

Besides the calculation, it also gives nice descriptions of the areas that have been quantified.

Additional sites with clear explanations of the benefits and value of trees:

Benefits of Trees:
(Graphic courtesy of ISA)
The Arbor Day Foundation has a nice animation on how to plant deciduous trees to save energy:


Remember: "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is now."
Monday, 13 July 2009 03:00

Tropic Gold Apricot - Loaded!

I had to show you this tree absolutely loaded with fruit!  It looked like a weeping tree 2 weeks ago.  For not thinning anything, the fruit was nice sized too.

Tropic GoldTM produces medium to large, excellent tasting apricots in late June to early July.


As you can see they are yellow with orange cheek.   Fruit is firm and juicy.  Good for fresh eating, canning and dehydrating.  It is self fertile.

A good apricot for mild winter areas. It fruits every year in Camarillo, California where this tree originated.  Another very popular apricot, Blenheim does not consistently fruit in the same location which is what caught our attention to Tropic Gold. Chilling hours is estimated at 350 hours opening up wide areas with mild winter climates to this delicious fruit.

We introduced this tree to the trade in 2005 and sales continue to be ever increasing.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy them.

For more photos of this crop go to Tropic Gold Apricots and Tropic Gold Apricot

Page 18 of 19