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March/April 2011 • Volume 29 • Number 2

Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association • Serving Colorado, New Mexico, & Wyoming

Excellence: Setting Higher Standards 9 In Search of Excellence: Striving to meet High Standards in any Economy 10 Management Tips on How to maintain Excellence and High Standards 13 Applicable Lessons from Outside the Green Industry 22 Member Profile: Northern Gardens, LLC



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Our Mission Professionals growing for a better tomorrow... your growing resource. Cover Photo Courtesy of Northern Gardens, LLC, Cody, Wyoming

In This Issue 5

Calendar, New Members, & Advertisers


CNGA – A Member-Driven Organization: Members direct CNGA Outcomes, Resources


CNGA finishes 2010 with Strong Performance


Message from the Board: Excellence


10 13

In Search of Excellence: Striving to meet Standards in any Economy


Setting and Communicating Plant Quality Standards

19 Safety Corner: Designated Medical Providers 20 CSU Update: Top Perennial Performers 22 Member Profile: Northern Gardens, LLC

Management Tips on How to Excel and Maintain High Standards

23 Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on the Horizon

Applicable Lessons from Outside the Green Industry

24 N.M. Chapter News: Soil Restoration

Board Of Directors Kent Broome, President Bailey Nurseries, Inc. 303.823.5093 Dan Gerace, Vice President Welby Gardens Company, Inc. 303.288.3398 Bill Kluth, Secretary/Treasurer Tagawa Greenhouse Enterprises, LLC 303.659.1260 x205 Les Ratekin, Past President Ratekin Enterprises 303.670.1499 Stan Brown Alameda Wholesale Nursery 303.761.6131

Publishing Info Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 959 S. Kipling Pkwy., Ste 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.758.6672 or 888.758.6672 Fax: 303.758.6805 The LooseLeaf is produced by CNGA and Millbrook Printing Company 3540 West Jefferson Hwy Grand Ledge, MI 48837-9750 Fax: 517.627.4201 www.colorado

Matt Edmundson Arbor Valley Nursery 303.654.1682

Davey Rock Picadilly Nursery 303.659.2382

Tom Halverstadt Country Lane Wholesale Nursery 303.688.2442

Terry Shaw Harding’s Nursery, Inc. 719.596.6281

Bob Heath RRH, Inc. 303.904.3330

Dr. James Klett, Ex-Officio Member CSU Dept. of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture 970.491.7179

Warren Jordan Jordan’s Greenhouse 970.482.4471 Bob Lefevre James Nursery Company 303.288.2424 Monica Phelan Phelan Gardens 719.574.8058

N.M. Chapter Senator, Mike Erickson 877.905.6432 Wyoming Chap. Senator, Griff Sprout 307.332.3572 Sharon R. Harris, Executive Director Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 303.758.6672



Sharon R. Harris Executive Director Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 303.758.6672

Kent Broome

Sharon R. Harris

Tanya Ishikawa

Dr. Jim Klett

Bill Kluth

Michael Martin Meléndrez

Laura Pottorff

Amy Statkevicus

The LooseLeaf is edited by Tanya Ishikawa of Buffalo Trails Multimedia Communications Visit for classified advertisements, plant publications, upcoming events, a member directory, and much more!

ADVERTISING INFO Rick Haverdink 3540 West Jefferson Hwy Grand Ledge, MI 48837-9750 Fax: 517.627.4201


From specific need to general purpose, we’ve been complimenting sustainable horticulture practices since 1990.

Flowering Shrubs • Junipers Ornamental Grasses • Vines • Perennials Container-Grown Shade & Fruit Trees since 1957

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DWF Growers Supply 4800 Dahlia Street, Denver, CO 80216 Phone: 303-399-3235 Fax: 303-376-3125 Toll-free: 1-800-829-8280 LooseLeaf March/April 2011



Commercial Pesticide Applicators (CPA) Prep Seminars 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesdays: March 8, 15, 22, & 29, and April 5 & 12 CNGA Office, Lakewood, Colo. The CPA seminars prepare anyone who needs to obtain a license from the Colorado Department of Agriculture to apply pesticides


on a commercial basis. Seminars include General Seminar Part I & II, Turf Seminar, Ornamental Seminar, Industrial Right of Way, and Outdoor Vertebrate. These seminars double your chances of passing this obligatory test on your first try, saving you time and money. Fees apply.


EcoScraps, LLC 8162 S. Marion Ct. Littleton, CO 80122 Tel: 303.564.6153 Fax: 801.734.9446 Brandon Sargent, V.P. Sales Founded 2010

New Energy Tech Co. Inc. 250 Perry Lane Dacono, CO 80514 Tel: 303.645.4742 Fax: 303.225.8024 Bob Shay, Hydretain Sales Founded in 1997

Pat Hayward Colorado State University 1173 Campus Delivery Fort Collins, CO 80523 Tel: 970.481.3429

Peaceful Prairie Nursery, Inc. 140090 Brookway Dr. Mitchell, NE 69357 Tel: 308.631.7452 Fax: 866.229.6202 Miles Imel, V.P. Production Founded 1998

Michelle Howard 9432 W. 89th Circle Westminster, CO 80021 Tel: 303.953.1399 clh Merrifield’s Greenhouse 19256 CR 343 #D Buena Vista, CO 81211 Tel: 719.395.9295 Fax: 719.395.6015 Glen Merrifield, Owner Founded in 1968

Event Registration 303.758.6672 888.758.6672 Fax: 303.758.6805 CNGA is the host of Calendar events unless otherwise noted. For more information, registration forms, and directions to programs, go to the Industry Professional site on and open the Calendar under the Events tab.

Sedalia Nursery 918 Parkcliff Lane Castle Pines, CO 80108 Tel: 303.877.8448 Fax: 303.660.1965 Larry Livingston Founded in 1970

Advertisers Alpha One Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 American Clay Works & Supply Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Baxter Wholesale Nursery, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Circle D Farm Sales, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING CNGA offers free posts and searches of our online classified ads, including items for sale or lease and job openings. For more information and to see current postings, visit the Industry Professional side of and click on Classifieds under the Resources tab.

Clayton Tree Farm LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21


Clifty View Nursery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Blooming Nursery welcomes June Condruk

Dimex, LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inside Front Cover

Blooming Nursery is very excited to welcome June Condruk as their new Sales and Marketing Coordinator. June, formerly of Valleybrook Gardens & VanDusen Botanical Gardens British Columbia as well as Songbird Water Gardens in Ontario, has returned from her hiatus in Hawaii to join our dynamic and successful team.

DWF Growers Supply . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Hash Tree Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Jayker Wholesale Nursery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 McKay Nursery Co. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Ratekin Enterprises/Hollandia Nursery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Richards, Seeley & Schaefer, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8


Blooming Nursery, founded in 1982, specializes in a wide selection of hardy perennials, grasses, herbs and more for the independent garden center market, landscapers, and other growers. To learn more, log on to



Members direct Association Outcomes & Resources We say “member-driven” organization on a regular basis, but it occurred to us that we don’t fully explain what this means and how it impacts CNGA member offerings. So, here are the details.

by Sharon R. Harris CNGA Executive Director

CNGA operates under a modified Carver® governance policy model that states the customers (members) provide direction to the board on what they want the organization to provide. The board then considers how many members want the same products/services, and determine if it is within CNGA’s power to provide those. If so, the suggestion becomes the outcome for the year. It is my job to then determine how to make the members expectations happen. When we ask you at Member BBQs, the Owners and Managers Meeting, and the ProGreen booth to give us feedback on what you would like CNGA to offer, we’re serious.This is your organization and we are here to attempt to meet your business needs.

• Involving employees in communication • Providing information on how to do estate planning • Coordinating a plastic recycling roundup in July or August Walking the talk of being member-driven seems to be working. CNGA has traditionally enjoyed a very high annual membership renewal rate, and 2011 is no exception. Once again, 92 percent of you have chosen to retain your membership. Our goal is to ensure we continue to provide that relevance to you.To that end, we hope to hear from you. Wishing you a great season!

At this year’s CNGA booth at the ProGreen Expo, we posted your ideas for 2011, and invited members to stop by to cast their vote or add new ideas. We are now compiling the feedback to determine your top picks for next CNGA actions.

CNGA finishes 2010 with Strong Financial Performance

We also created a new way to get your feedback, with a Feedback form on the Industry home page on the website,

CNGA Board Secretary/Treasurer Bill Kluth is pleased to report that the association finished its financial year at the end of December not only in the black but with a surplus at the bottom line. Sharon and the staff continue to manage your association like you are managing your business: making sure that expenses are proportional to income, making adjustments throughout the year, and going the extra mile where necessary.

In response to your comments, we offer training and information in two ways: as the “source” by directly providing educational training sessions, and as the “resource” where information is provided through the LooseLeaf, E-Leaf, and website. What can you look for in 2011? In response to member suggestions, here are the “source” outcomes for this year. • Supervisory training sessions • Marketing and branding training program • Information sharing on the newest Internet technologies and their benefits to your company • Planning for member products promotion through the CNGA Grown N Colorado® program


There were three suggestions where CNGA will be the “resource” in getting you information:

CNGA income for 2010 was down from budget, but expenses were down even more, resulting in a strong financial performance for 2010, and setting up the association for a great 2011. We look forward to continuing to provide quality services and member value while keeping our eye on the budget.

LooseLeaf March/April 2011

Excellence — Setting Higher Standards


by Bob Heath CNGA Board Member

Do you assume you need to sell at lower prices than your competitors? Do higher priced items have greater quality? If so, do they give more perceived value? Are your plants larger? Do they have better structure or a larger pot? Do they have more flower buds or better leaf color? Do your ball and burlap trees have the proper size ball, better branching, and a straighter trunk? Do your employees have great knowledge about the products they are selling? These are benefits and have value. Higher quality service equals higher standards. Higher standards give more value, and more value dictates higher prices, while lower standards dictate a lower price. Value is what you’re getting for your money. Motels with a number are usually cheaper than the ones that start with the letter H or end with the letter I. They both give value based on price. Does one have a higher standard? You bet! Are you lowering your standards because that is what your market wants, or is it because it is easy? Remember: a higher standard always gives better service, quality, and benefits, and is priced accordingly. Your market location can dictate inventory, variety, and price, but you should never assume it. Do you at season’s end have your best plants left? Does your best always sell first? Is it because of cheap price, or quality and higher standards? Offer the option of a higher standard.Your company and the industry itself are raised.Your customers will be proud they shopped with you. A customer wants to know: • I can trust what they’re selling me is the right thing. • The sales people will give me personal attention, be genuinely interested in me, and even remember my name or at least acknowledge they remember me in some way. • I will be given the option of the best and lower priced items and shown the difference. These are very basic customer service benefits. You alone have the control to raise or lower your standards. Isn’t this great! This is fun; you can do it!


Post Script from Board President Kent Broome: Thanks to Bob Heath for his message and for his service on the CNGA Board. Bob is also your Outreach Committee chair. He is right: we do need to set our standards high; the public expects that from CNGA members. There are many establishments that sell the same products we do, but they purchase on a much larger scale and can offer a better price. Box stores continue to purchase products in larger quantities with better discounts, and suppliers are looking for more outlets for their products. Even though many focus their sales on independent companies, which are a more reliable base for their business, the current economy is forcing them to sell to larger customers who might not pay as much but can quickly lower their inventories. So what can you as a CNGA member do to compete in these challenging times? What can you do when many if not the majority of the items you carry can be purchased at a lower price somewhere else?

CNGA Board President Kent Broome

...we do

Buyers should be visiting and monitoring their competition, and adjusting their product lines as best as possible to not match that competition. As much as possible, avoid giving your customer the chance of comparing product. Look for suppliers’ new items. Ask them what they can sell you that they are not selling to box stores and other competitors. You need to show value to your customers, so ask your suppliers to prove their value to you. Challenge them!

need to

One area where CNGA members can excel and be a step ahead of their competition is education. CNGA offers many educational programs during the course of the year, to keep your employees at a higher level of knowledge than other larger companies. Certification can be a key to gaining the upper hand in employees’ knowledge and recognition.


set our standards

I encourage you to send your employees to the training opportunities available from CNGA. Better yet, encourage or give incentives to your employees to become Colorado Certified Nursery Professionals. If you currently have CCNPs on staff, are you prominently displaying their certificates? Are you advertising you have them on staff? As Bob mentioned above, value achieved through standards is key to competing in these challenging times. Purchase the proper product, at the best price for the quality. Educate your staff, and be at the cutting edge of information. If you need to find out more about educational opportunities, call the CNGA office. Challenge your suppliers, challenge your employees, and challenge CNGA. They all have more to give you than you are currently aware of.

Have a great spring!


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LooseLeaf March/April 2011

In Search of Excellence: Striving to meet High Standards in any Economy

By Tanya Ishikawa LooseLeaf Editor

Tagawa Gardens in Centennial, Colo. expanded its guest services area to provide a more visible, convenient location for customers to find assistance. Photo Credit: Tagawa Gardens



In Search of Setting and striving to meet high standards in customer service and labor efficiency have been two common factors in successful businesses over time. A new or renewed emphasis on cautious decision-making and open employee communication have also been factors in success, especially during the down economy. Moving ahead, these business practices will continue to be significant, according to a couple CNGA members from retail and wholesale nurseries and greenhouses. “We always feel like we’re setting high standards, and then we keep fine-tuning them through communication with our staff,” said Beth Zwinak, a manager at Tagawa Gardens in Centennial, Colo. Tagawa makes customers feel good about spending money at its garden center with friendliness and building trust and loyalty. The retailer places a strong emphasis on guest services, answering questions, and holding various events and classes. The guest services department was expanded recently, and positioned so guest services employees are the first faces customers see when they come into the store. “We hope they will feel supported like,‘Wow.’ We’re right here to help you,” Zwinak said.“Our vision statement states that we’re here to provide an enjoyable experience for our community. We want people to have an enjoyable experience with gardening.

Whether you do it in your home or garden, we can help provide products that help nurture yourself, your family, and the environment. If you get to the commodity level, everyone sells it, so you can find plants anywhere.You have to sell something more.” Tagawa has developed high standards for environmental sustainability, through its certification process in the Veriflora sustainably grown program. “Those standards are very high, and show we value people, the environment, and community,” she explained.“We have standards already that are very similar, but that keeps us on our toes when we have to renew every year.”

Tagawa evaluates its standards on an ongoing basis, and if the standard is not “making the grade,” the owners, managers, and often other employees sit down to decide whether to improve a practice, or whether energy is better spent by just “leaving it behind.” “One thing that we have always felt no matter what, and through the last year or two the feeling just got stronger, our people are our best asset. It’s more obvious when times are more challenging,” she added. While the company will not compromise on standards of quality or integrity, it constantly reviews its product mix to ensure

Management Tips on How to and High Standards Thanks to Rod Bryner of Boxelder Tree Farm, Mike Gittleson of The Tree Farm, David Salman of Santa Fe Greenhouses, and Beth Zwinak of Tagawa Gardens for their contributions to this list of tips. Consider the following ideas to help your entire staff achieve excellence in plant quality (including health, measurements, and appearance), field and greenhouse management practices, store cleanliness, employee knowledge and experience, customer service, professionalism, community involvement, and other important standards. • Train and talk with staff on an ongoing basis about how they work and your expectations of their results. • Get employees involved in nurturing plants: watering, looking for pests, and other tasks, so they can learn and put standards into practice. • Work alongside employees. Judge and grade plant material together, cull material that is not up to standards from retail benches, and provide them with mentored experience. • Maintain a useful collection of reading material about growing and caring for plants, plant and disease


identification, and other related topics. The Colorado Certified Nursery Professional and Certified Greenhouse Growers manuals are great references. • Send staff to local, state, and regional industry-related conferences. • Encourage staff to train for certification, such as the Colorado Certified Nursery Professional and the Certified Greenhouse Growers program. • Allow staff to take responsibility and use their creativity and imagination. • Develop and adhere to company values, which can be communicated through a vision or mission statement. • Pay attention to your employees’ communications with customers and make sure the information, especially about plant quality and care, is consistent. • Make sure owners and managers are setting the example for everyone. • Role play with employees to practice customer communication. • Ensure that employees remain focussed on standards throughout the year, even at the beginning and end of seasons when there can be a tendency to get sloppy.

LooseLeaf March/April 2011

Excellence it has the top-selling items, and streamlines its procedures to ensure ease of labor and efficiency in operations. As part of Tagawa’s longterm philosophy, these practices won’t change whether the economy improves or stays the same, Zwinick noted.

When the next difficult business situation comes along, whether it is the economy, a natural phenomenon, or other crisis, she said, “We will gather together and talk about it. We’ll do what feels right for us, based on our company standards of integrity.” At Boxelder Tree Farm, co-owner Rod Bryner said the wholesale grower will deal with the next difficult situation by going about it “with caution and more of a restrained attitude.” “It’s so tough to predict the next difficulty; so much of it seems daily at times, whether it’s equipment, people, or weather. It changes almost by the hour sometimes,” Bryner said.“One thing I think is important in dealing with adverse conditions is to keep a level, even keel and outlook on things. I think if you get too down or too up on how things go, you’r business is in trouble.You need to look at it in the long term and long run. It’s not a short-term thing.” Even when the economy improves, he said,“I think I would be more cautious in not taking things for granted, not thinking that they will be that way all the time.”

“I’ve taken a new train of thought: it’s better to sell out of something than trim down a bunch of things. I’d rather say I’m out of a tree species than go out and cut it down or burn it,” Bryner explained.“We err more on the conservative side and narrow in on the production lines that do best for us on a year-in, year-out basis.”

Boxelder is reevaluating its variety of tree species to determine what will work best. It will no longer carry some trees, popular with Colorado Front Range landscape architects, because they don’t grow as well in the soil type at the farm’s location near Wellington in northeast Colorado. “We will stay with things we can do well with, and cater to markets that use trees that do better for us.That’s one reason we are moving (our sales) into Wyoming and now Montana,” he said. Boxelder is also closely watching and adjusting its daily labor costs, even cutting staff expenses on non-essential work. “One philosophy I have is there may be a few more weeds in the field than in the past, but the quality of the trees is every bit as good as when things were good,” he commented.“I would rather have things get unsightly in the field, rather than have trees suffer.” continued on next page

Maintain Excellence • Apply new technologies and innovative production methods. For example, new computer or Internet services may boost customer communication, or new containers may improve root growth. • Promote a culture of openness and honesty, where all employees treat each customer as a human and individual – not a dollar bill. • Instead of trying to sell your products to customers, foster an attitude that you are helping them purchase what they need. Be ready to let them wander and not talk with staff when customers want to be left alone. • Make sure staff is easy to find as soon as customers walk in the door. For example, you could set up a guest services station or person to answer customer questions and direct them to the right staff or location. Ensure staff is easily identifiable, such as by wearing custom apparel. • Make time to meet and have conversations with customers. You can invite them to tour your property, help them load their plants, or even deliver to them personally. • Provide customers with every tool they need to grow a plant successfully, from a quality plant to information, such as printed materials that explain step-by-step what to do with plants when they leave the nursery.


• Consider taking special orders for customers when you don’t have what they want in your inventory. • Organize seminars and other educational events for customers, where your staff and/or other gardening experts communicate your standards for planting, growing, and caring for your products. • Communicate your appreciation of business from your customers, by donating products when possible. For example, you could provide trees, shrubs, or flowers for city parks, memorial plantings, or university campuses.

“I’ve taken a new train of thought: it’s better to sell out of something than trim down a bunch of things. I’d rather say I’m out of a tree species than go out and cut it down or burn it,” explained Rod Bryner of Boxelder Tree Farm.


Excellence Boxelder has set standards for various management practices in the field such as the frequency and timing of pruning.The goal is to produce a uniform,“cookie-cutter” tree that will consistently meet the same standards and buyers’ expectations. Each practice and standard is refined based on trial and error. Plus, Bryner noted it is helpful to have longterm employees with a deep foundation of plant knowledge. One of his employees, Brad Meyer, is a recipient of the highly competitive Colorado Nursery Research & Education Foundation scholarship, awarded to top students in the industry. Over the years, Bryner has emphasized the business practice of diversifying his customer base. He has made an effort to meet people and develop business relationships with not only landscape contractors but city governments and other landscaping project decision-makers. “That’s the biggest way we’ve been able to keep things going, by generating a larger and more diverse customer base. Diversity is just as important as the overall volume of things,” he said. After establishing those customer contacts, he strives to meet their needs and provide the best customer service by delivering many of the trees directly to customers, or taking time to meet customers and help them load when they come to pick up trees. “I think that’s a good policy that I’ve always done. It allows me the opportunity when I’m delivering trees to talk to customers about what they’re looking for, or ask if they are happy with the

product. It shows a little more pride when you can stand behind your product a little better,” he said.

When he can’t meet the customer personally, he will do a followup call after the delivery to find out if everything looked all right. If there were problems, he can take care of it right then. Bryner has worked hard to build relationships where customers are happy to do business with him. He works with them on freight costs when he can, and on bulk order discounts. He also calls up customers when he’s running long on a certain variety of tree, and offers them a good deal. Even if they hadn’t planned to buy at that moment, they often appreciate the opportunity for a bargain. Excellent communication with customers can lead to better sales. Another way he increases positive interactions with customers is by inviting them to walk the fields during off-season, not just to show them the operations but to “pick their minds.” Last fall, a visit by a customer from the Steamboat Springs area opened Bryner’s eyes to a little known market there. He knew about the high-end homes and developments in need of certain types of trees, but he found out there was a starter home market that needed discount priced trees. He concluded the most important task is to find what customers want that you can supply, and then figure out the best way to provide it.

“A Growing Family” (208) 267-1016 A quality conifer wholesale nursery Stephen Acker 208-946-7801 12

LooseLeaf March/April 2011

Applicable Lessons in implementing High Standards from Outside the Green Industry Successful businesses create comfortable, memorable atmospheres and experiences.

By Tanya Ishikawa LooseLeaf Editor

Bobby Stuckey, co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine, prepares his staff for an evening of excellent service. Photo Credit: Jennifer Olson



Excellen Excelle n

The four generations of the Masin family at Masins Fine Furnishings and Interior Design. Photo Courtesy of Masins Furniture, Seattle, Wash.

According to executives from three retail businesses outside the Green industry, their emphasis on high standards for customer service and product quality helped them maintain profitability even in lean times. Companies in the nursery and greenhouse industry can find success by applying some of the same practices and philosophies. Masins Fine Furnishings and Interior Design welcomes its customers with a comfortable, clean environment plus drinks from an espresso machine.The business is based in Seattle after-all, pointed out Vice President Dave Masin. Established in 1927, the deep-rooted business has three stores with nearly 50 employees. (See a video tour of two locations led by Masin at “When a customer walks into our store, it’s like walking into your home,” Masin said.“We have comfortable places to sit. We have a beautiful showroom – a comfortable, clean, safe place to do business. By controlling our environment – it’s never too hot, never too cold – we are able to make them want to come back.” A welcoming, comfortable environment is also a standard set by Frasca Food and Wine, an award-winning Italian restaurant in Boulder, Colo.Yes, they do have an espresso machine.They also have Austrian Riedel fine glassware and a unique wine selection, among many features that combine for an excellent presentation.


A young customer enjoys his meal at Noodles & Company. Photo Courtesy of Noodles & Company.

“I think value is important. We have this idea that value always means cheaper, and that’s not necessarily so,” said Bobby Stuckey, a co-owner of the six-year-old restaurant with 35 employees.“I think value is in how we present ideas.” Similarly, at Noodles & Company, corporate marketing executive Jill Preston noted,“In today’s busy world, we want to be a place people feel comfort going to, because the food and experience are memorable, consistent, and a good value.” Creating high standards for value has helped the nationwide, fast-casual chain restaurant achieve annual double-digit unit growth for the last five years.

Find out more about the strategies that helped these three companies achieve success – even in the down economy. Can you use similar customer service techniques and quality standards to improve your bottom line?

LooseLeaf March/April 2011

ce Excellence At Masins: “One of the main things that I stress to our employees is we can’t control the economy, taxes, the president of the United States, but one constant thing we can control is day-in, day-out customer service. Everyday, it needs to be better than it ever has been. People will remember that when they do start spending money again. Whether solving their problem or selling them furniture, customer service is the one variable that we can always control.” Retail has changed. It’s common for consumers to come into a store and know more about products than our own design experts. Because of the Internet, they’ll come in knowing exactly what they’re looking for. If you don’ have it, they’ll go elsewhere. The best ways to keep their business is through excellent customer service and quality products.

three things:“We want people to remember us for our quality, customer service, and interior design services.”

At Frasca: “We’re always trying to improve, and always putting money back into the business. We’ve only been open six and a half years, and we just did a major remodel. We’ve been incredibly lucky and successful, so we didn’t have to remodel. It was important to us to do it to add value for guests who had been with us.” Frasca spends a lot of money on educating staff, far above “what restaurant MBA programs tell us to do.” The owners have taken the whole staff to Italy to learn about the food culture four times already.

At Noodles:

At Frasca:

They do things a little bit different than other fast casual restaurants – you order at the counter but the food is delivered on real china with real silverware.You don’t have to clear your table either.“These differentiators to the service model set us apart and make an impact.”

Frasca looked at its strengths and tried to develop those.“Our intangible is the Frasca experience – a layer of comfort and a feeling that you don’t get elsewhere, and maybe other restaurants are not able to provide.”

The corporation’s motto is: every bowl, every guest, every time, and it has incorporated its guest service philosophy into the training program so it becomes engrained with team members from day one.

“A lot of businesses lowered prices and tried to make things more casual to capture customers in a down economy. We realized, people really drive up from Denver on a snowy Tuesday night for the experience. How do you add value to that experience? You don’t add value by lowering prices. We still have the stigma of being a special occasions restaurant. We’re not equipped to compete with the lower end restaurants.”

Demonstrating Standards

At Noodles: “Providing exceptional guest service has always been part of the Noodles & Company philosophy. It’s about going above and beyond to make someone feel special and valued. Our guests certainly come to us because they crave our flavorful food and variety, but it’s a lot more than that.They come to us because we can make their lives easier, and they can feel good about dining with us. Our global menu features something for everyone, so it’s a great place to bring the family because everyone can find something they like.”

Setting Standards At Masins: You can’t be everything to everyone. Masins’ focus has been on providing furnishings and designing interiors for hotels and high-end condo projects.“There’s been a lot of growth and development of that type in our area, so we’re just trying to be aware of the fact. It’s become an important part of our business plan in the last few years.” “We sell furniture, and we make people happy and get them what they want.You really want to sell a level of service that people will remember and talk about.” The brand is really important.The Masins brand encompasses www.colorado

At Masins: One way standards are demonstrated is when the vice president (a third-generation member of the company) writes and signs a personal note with his direct phone number on it to every person that buys anything from the catalog or the showroom. The stores also hire their own team of delivery drivers, instead of outsourcing.“They work for us, and we can make sure the entire process is to our customers’ satisfaction: whether it be walking into a store for the first time and being greeted by a friendly receptionist, or by our guys delivering that final stick of furniture and always trying to meet their expectations.”

At Frasca: When they take reservations, they get more information, so the staff can better take care of the customers in their special occasion format.“We really turned our empathy frequency to what type of night it is for people.” For example,“if we see a regular, who we recognize as someone normally in here with his wife, on a business dinner, we send a couple chocolates home for his wife.That guest’s wife may think,‘Wow, even when I wasn’t there, the waiter was thinking about me.’ It’s a little thing but it could mean a lot.” During the slower times of year, it is always hard to keep that edge, but to avoid sloppy service, Frasca’s staff discusses it during the pre-service notes. On a night with less reservations, they go over their weaknesses, so they can be aware, going into the night’s service. continued on next page


Excellence At Noodles:

At Frasca:

The staff constantly works at adding value to the food quality, the service, and the atmosphere.“All three must be executed flawlessly for the guest to feel it’s a good value—especially in today’s economy.”

One lesson is there are always going to be economic cycles; every business is going to go through those.“Your success depends on how you show up everyday to dig yourselves out of those situations.You look at your business and see what is intangible to guests and what you might not need.”

Learning Lessons from the Past At Masins:

“I learned: be conservative even in good times. If we weren’t conservative when we had good years, we wouldn’t have this business today. We’ve had to go through a lot of money in the last couple years, but we couldn’t have if we hadn’t been conservative before.”

Last year, Frasca experienced its own mini-disaster when a pizza oven shipped from Italy for its new next-door pizzeria was destroyed in customs. It delayed the opening of the new restaurant more than two months.“We had no control over that, but what we do is show up everyday, and say what can I do. And I know I can show up every night and work service.”

At Noodles:

“I’ve never worked harder than I have these last couple years when business was soft. It’s been even more important for me to be here.”

“At the heart of it, we believe in delivering a dining experience we’re proud of. It’s what we focus on everyday regardless of the environment. If we’re executing on that, success will follow. This is especially important in today’s challenging economic environment when people are more discerning and more choosey about where they are going to spend their dollars. If someone has a negative guest service experience, it’s very unlikely they will return.”

Besides the difficult economy, Masins has had to deal with store damage from an earthquake as well as a store fire.“You learn to persevere, go day-by-day, and focus on what’s important.”

There’s so much competition in the restaurant industry.“If you aren’t executing, your competitor probably is.You always have to keep that in mind.”

When the next challenge comes, his advice is to “have the proper insurance, be prepared, and know things happen.”


Growers of Quality Specimen Conifers Selected Seed Sources of Pine, Fir & Spruce

877--875--8733 1199 Bear Creek Road Princeton, ID 83857

Fax: E--Mail: Web:



LooseLeaf March/April 2011

Setting and Communicating Standards for Plant Quality This bedding plant display from spring 2008 at Santa Fe Greenhouses in New Mexico shows “good quality plants with nice, deep green foliage, compact not stretched, showing some color but not blown,� explained president David Salman. Photo Courtesy of Santa Fe Greenhouses

By Tanya Ishikawa LooseLeaf Editor



Standards for Plant Quality While excellent customer service is key to developing prosperous business relationships in pretty much all industries, high standards in plant quality are the cornerstone of successful independent greenhouse and nursery businesses. And yet, customers and employees don’t always have a clear understanding of the importance and development of a healthy plant. “We feel that there’s not always a good understanding of what plant quality is, so we try to put a lot of emphasis on it with our staff,” said David Salman, the president and chief horticulturist at Santa Fe Greenhouses in New Mexico.“I think the retail public always needs education about quality plants, particularly over the last 10 to 15 years. With big box stores treating plants as commodities, I think a lot of retail customers have lost sight of the difference between a quality plant and a cheap plant.” Mike Gittleson, the manager at The Tree Farm in Longmont, Colo., agreed that customers need to be educated as to what quality is and how important it is to pick “big, full, lush, healthy, disease-free plants.” Gittleson also pointed to customer service and professionalism as top standards to pay attention to. “It’s the employers’ responsibility, in order to keep people on the same page as far as standards, to continue peaking employees’ interest in it, so they are buying into the importance of quality, professionalism, and service. They have to want to do it,” Gittleson said. Managers and owners can help employees understand plant quality standards by quantifying them. For instance, they could talk about how a 5-gallon shrub should be x by x measurement. Giving examples can be helpful.They could show what an American Nursery Standard is, and compare it to plants in their inventory and what their own company’s standard is. For customers, detailed signage can help with their understanding. “Give them the exact measurements of the plant, so it’s not some up-in-the-air figure like just the pot size. Give the age of the plant. People can relate to that and understand,” Gittleson explained. Sometimes it’s easy for a consumer to see that a plant is pest-free and healthy such as one with nicely-shaped, shiny leaves. Other times they might need help in figuring it out, especially if they don’t have an unhealthy plant next to a healthy one to compare. A lot about plant health can be judged by the roots, so discussing or showing root depth to staff and customers can help them understand quality standards. “We emphasize deep roots in perennials and particularly in native plants,” Salman said.“When it comes to nursery stock, we try to educate both our staff and our customers that a great big tree in a little pot is no bargain. A plant needs to be in proportion to pot size and have good vigor, not be overgrown, or you’ll get a lot of girdling and root issues.”


While people tend to assume bigger plants in bigger pots take longer to grow so would generally be more expensive, they might not be as aware that an overgrown plant in a smaller pot really has much less value than if it was properly sized to its container. “I know on ball and burlap trees, we try to educate our customers that a 3-inch caliper tree is not necessarily worth more money, because small caliper trees will reestablish more quickly. We try to reeducate our customers that there is a limit in our harsh climate to buying bigger trees, because they struggle so hard to reestablish themselves,” Salman commented. “Hopefully, customers will recognize the difference. Certainly they will when they plant it and grow it on their property.” Though healthy, good-sized plants at high standards are expected to be the norm at independent greenhouse and nursery businesses, owners and managers may decide to sell some plants that go below or far above standards. With these items, that stray from the set standards, setting an appropriate price and communicating the reason for the price is a way to remain true to high standards of value. “Some people like nursing plants back to health, so we have a bargain table for things that are maybe not in as good shape, small but healthy. The managers make those determinations about whether plants can be sold, or are to a point where they can’t be resuscitated or reshaped so should be tossed,” Salman said.“When we get in specimen plants, particularly if they are hard to find, we will price them up, and educate our customer, for instance, about how with this particularly slow-growing plant, it is so unusual to get to this size until a long time. Or, maybe some plants are exceptionally vigorous and well-shaped.” By matching the right plant to the right customer, businesses can improve customer relationships and future sales. For businesses who concentrate on quality more than quantity, it is critical for customers to understand what makes their plants a higher quality. “Communicating that with advertising is hard to do.You can say it, but everyone says: ‘We’ve got the best plants around,’” admitted Gittleson.“When customers come in and see quality, they are willing to pay the price. If you go into a discount furniture store, as compared to a higher-end store, you’re getting what you pay for. Customers know that, for sure.” Still, employees may need to help the customer understand the reasons when prices of quality plants are any higher than others. “If a customer comes in and says ‘Your stuff is too expensive,’ the employee can’t say ‘Well, yea.’ The employee needs to understand those quality standards and what goes into growing a healthy plant. It may be a little higher price, but there’s a reason. They need to explain that to customers when they balk at it.” “You need to make sure your employees all buy into that philosophy. If they don’t, they may not work out as employees with your company,” he concluded.

LooseLeaf March/April 2011


Designated Medical Provider List Notification Letter — It’s the Law! From Pinnacol Assurance

Do you have a Designated Medical Provider List Notification Letter ready to go? You should; it’s the law. A few years ago, employers could tell their workers about the company’s designated medical providers at the time of hire or by posting the information in the workplace. In January 2008, the law (Rule 8 of the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Rules of Procedure) changed in Colorado. According to Rule 8, employers must now give their workers at least two designated medical providers to choose from in case of a workplace accident in most cases. In addition, employers must supply written notification of those medical providers at the time of injury. The Designated Medical Provider List Notification Letter must contain three items: 1. Names and contact information for at least two designated medical providers 2. Name and contact information for your company’s workers’ compensation representative 3. Contact information for your workers’ compensation insurance carrier According to Colorado law, this letter must be mailed or hand-delivered within seven days of notification of the injury. If an employer does not notify an injured worker in writing, the employee may seek treatment from the healthcare provider of his/her choice. “Designating medical providers for your injured workers is crucial to effective claims management,” says Kay Carnahan, Pinnacol Assurance’s director of agent loss management programs.“Occupational medicine professionals work closely with the employee and employer to ensure a quick and safe return to work.”


According Carnahan recommends being prepared. “Have generic Designated Medical Provider List Notification Letters printed and ready in case of an injury,” she says.“If you have field employees or various locations, give copies to your managers and supervisors, so they can be handed out easily.” Other tips Carnahan offers are:

to Rule 8, employers must now give their

• Have your employee sign the letter and keep a copy for yourself. While this step is not required by law, it helps if there is ever a question about the notification.

workers at least

• Don’t wait for seven days to pass. Mail or hand-deliver the letter as soon as possible.


• If your employee goes to the emergency room when injured, you still must provide the letter.

providers to

• Pinnacol Assurance has a sample letter you can use to meet the legal requirements. Call customer service at 303-361-4000 or your underwriter for a copy or further assistance. Remember: The Designated Medical Provider List Notification Letter is required by law. If you are prepared, it is a simple step that will ensure successful outcomes for your employee and your company.

two designated

choose from in case of a workplace accident in most cases.

For more information about the Designated Medical Provider List Notification Letter, contact your Pinnacol representative. Gail Brodsack with Wells Fargo Insurance Services represents CNGA’s nursery members. You can reach her at 800-332-9256. Greenhouse members can call Ernie Schaefer with Richards, Seeley & Schaefer at 303-429-3561.



2010 Top Perennial Performers

By Dr. James E. Klett Professor and Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist Colorado State University

Two-year herbaceous perennial trials were initiated in late 2006 at the Colorado State University Annual Flower Trial Garden, directly west of the University Center for the Arts, in Fort Collins, Colo. The purpose of these trials is to observe garden performance along with winter hardiness of new herbaceous perennials. Cooperators include growers and plant breeders from throughout the country and world. At the end of each growing season, the perennial trial subcommittee reviews data and photos and selects some perennials as ‘Top Performers’ for promotion to the industry and public. Currently, 11 different perennial companies have entered approximately 100 taxa for evaluation in the Rocky Mountain Region. In 2010, seven taxa were given this ‘Top Performer’ rating since all have been tested for at least two growing seasons and one or two winters. The following are the 2010 ‘Top Performers.’ Anemone x ‘Little Princess’ PP 19,670 from Blooms of Bressingham

“The purpose of these trials is to observe

Planted in 2008, this anemone performs best in full sun. It has large pink and white flowers late in the summer, and a low growth habit with attractive foliage.


Hemerocallis x ‘Fire King’ from Walter’s Garden


Planted in 2008, this daylily has exceptional vigor and a longer bloom period. The flower stalks are sturdy and support abundant red-orange blooms

along with winter hardiness of new herbaceous perennials.”


creating a spectacular show. Hibiscus x ‘Jazzberry Jam’ PPAF from Walter’s Garden

Hibiscus x ‘Summer Storm’ PP 20,443 from Walter’s Garden The dissected foliage which emerges dark purple and matures to green contributed to this variety being chosen as a ‘Top Performer’. It has a vigorous growth habit with abundant flowers. We trialed in both sun and shade and it performed well in both locations. It was planted in 2008. Echinacea purpurea ‘Mistral’ from Pacific Plug and Liner This floriferous, compact coneflower planted in 2009 is a sport from the popular ‘Kim’s Knee High’. The growth habit was very uniform. The uniform flowers open bright pink and mature to an antique shade, lasting for a long period of time.

This plant did well in both sun and shady locations in our trials. The very large, attractive flowers emerge later in the season. We have tested for two growing seasons and winters.

LooseLeaf March/April 2011

Penstemon ‘Prairie Twilight’ PP 19,893 from Blooms of Bressingham This penstemon has strong burgundy colored stems, which produce long lasting tubular lavender flowers with shades of white contrasting nicely against the dark green foliage. It was planted in 2008, and did well in our low-water trial block.

Clayton Tree Farm Specimen Trees for Color and Comfort

Penstemon barbatus – Red Riding HoodTM Beardtongue from Pacific Plug and Liner This variety was planted in 2009, and had prolific red tubular flowers on long stems. It bloomed earlier in the season on vigorous, uniform plants. Flowering continued into late summer.

These are the seven ‘Top Performers’ for 2010 from our multi-year herbaceous perennial trials. You can view a complete listing of all perennials in this trial at


Shade and Ornamental B&B and Container Trees Growing Grounds Nampa and Wilder, Idaho Office 208.482.6600



Northern Gardens caters to Life on the Range What was your road to starting this business?

Northern Gardens specializes in providing plants for custom designed and maintained pots and baskets. Photo Courtesy of Northern Gardens

Northern Gardens, LLC 84 County Road 2ABN Cody, Wyoming 82414 307.527.6272 www.northern

We (owners Rod and Kay Soulek) have always had a dream of having our own business. We’ve worked for several people in the greenhouse and flower industry since the 1970s, so we had a vast amount of exposure and experience in the industry and felt confident to start our own business. Both of us grew up in small towns in Minnesota. Kay is a University of Minnesota graduate, and Rod is a graduate of the DuPage Horticultural School, a former Ball Horticultural Company division in Chicago. We’ve worked at greenhouses in St. Paul, Minn. and then Billings, Mont., and wanted to get back to a smaller town, closer to the mountains. We decided to open our business in Cody, Wyo. (pop. 9,000) in Park County (pop. 25, 000), spread over 5,000 square miles next to Yellowstone National Park. We saw an opportunity in this area due to a lack of product quality, variety, and availability. We also were aware that people were looking for help in maintaining their plants, and we were encouraged by some local people to move to Cody. Our company started in 1994 with 9,000 square feet of greenhouse and two or three employees.The plan was to sell bedding plants, but we soon found a real need for landscaping in the area. Rod began selling and planting nursery stock in the area and this is a large part of the company today.

Describe your company today.

The core staff members of Northern Gardens Photo Courtesy of Northern Gardens


The staff increases up to 25 employees during the spring and summer. Over half of these employees have been with us three years or more and some up to 15 years. The business is open from

mid-March to Dec. 23 and closed from January to mid-March. The greenhouse has grown to 27,000 square feet, and 60,000-plus square feet of nursery stock sales area. Our operation is on six and a half acres, about three miles from Cody, which makes us a shopping destination.

What products and services do you offer? We pride ourselves on our product creativity. We offer landscape design and installation of trees and shrubs, custom planters, patio pots, and hanging baskets for customers at their homes, downtown businesses, and private ranches. Maintenance of these items on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis is also available and keeps our staff busy the rest of the season. In addition to a large selection of annual and perennial flowers, trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables, we sell plant care products, gardening tools, pottery, and a diverse line of bird baths, fountains, benches, and outdoor furniture.

Why did you become a CNGA member? We joined in May 2008, when CNGA Board President Kent Broome arranged a membership drive in Wyoming. We try to go to ProGreen every couple years and bring employees.The member discount and flat rate for the seminars, no matter how many you take, provide an immediate benefit to us.There are not many greenhouses in Wyoming, so we appreciate having an opportunity to talk to our peers in CNGA.The LooseLeaf is very informative. We rely on publications and the Internet for keeping up with the industry.

How do you communicate your standards to your employees, and help implement them? Kay does all the training with new hires. We have a mission statement, which we go over at the beginning, and it sets the tone for the rest of the training.We talk about what good customer service is, and get into the details of plant care, company procedures, cash register, plant varieties, etc. Usually in the spring, we schedule a couple of meetings for the returning staff to get them up to LooseLeaf March/April 2011

speed on new products and back in the mode of thinking about the value of customer service. We emphasize the importance of the new season coming on and discuss the economic situation. For our installation and plant maintenance services, Rod will go out on the jobs with new hires two or three times and work with them. We feel it’s important for him to do this as it impresses upon them our standards for that kind of work. Our goal is to be known for our attention to details when we do work in the community.

What business practice, started in 2010, will you continue whether economic conditions improve or stay the same? We didn’t cut back on our production in the greenhouse at all and we still carried a strong inventory on our nursery stock. The nursery sales area looked as full in August and September as it did in May, because we needed to maintain a variety of plant selection for customers to choose from. This past season we received discounts from nursery wholesalers and we passed these discounts on to customers. To encourage a larger purchase, we offered a 15 percent discount if they bought 10 or more shrubs. We’ll probably continue with that type of quantity sale again in 2011, to keep customers planting in their yards.

perennials, and hard good items. What we did differently in 2010 is put sale tags on random stock during the season, which gave shoppers discounts before the sale and allowed us to keep moving stock. In past seasons, we were open seven days a week starting the end of April. After the 4th of July, we usually reduce our hours and close on Sundays, but this past season, we chose to open Sundays through July as well, which was a good decision. As with any year, we are always watching our labor costs, so we make sure we adjust our work schedule according.

Which other industries have you learned important lessons from? Anytime we are personally out shopping at a retail store, we notice the service and how people treat us. Customers care about how knowledgeable staff is about their products. We start questioning ourselves: are our customers getting high quality service and accurate information? We need to make the shopping experience informative and fun for everyone involved. The next generation of gardeners coming up will do their research on products on the Internet or Smart Phone. This challenges the Northern Gardens staff to continually try to be better at what we do.

Around Labor Day, we run our annual “Lone Ranger Sale,” which helps us sell through inventory on b&b trees, nursery stock,

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on the Horizon Shipments from East should be checked for Pest By Laura Pottorff, M.S., Colorado Department of Agriculture

All living organisms have certain built in mechanisms for spreading or self dispersal that usually include aids such as wind, water, and the ability to “hitchhike.” People interested in protecting agriculture and natural resources are on the constant lookout for exotic or invasive species that hitchhike or otherwise move into previously uncolonized areas. Currently, in Colorado we are watching for over 22 pests that we think may pose a risk for agriculture, forests, and urban landscapes. Sometimes pests that are not on the ‘watch’ list catch us off guard. The brown marmorated stink bug or BMSB is in the news in the eastern and mid-western U.S. Originally from Asia, the insect has been in Pennsylvania since 2001, and is spreading. In summer 2010, reports were heard from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. First reports of this pest were mainly related to invasions of homes, where there is very little concern over plant damage. However, last summer in Maryland and New Jersey, BMSB began to cause serious damage to fruit crops and ornamentals. It is possible we will see this pest show up in Colorado as it hitchhikes on vehicles, and can also move through commerce. BMSB commonly feeds on landscape ornamentals and is often


noticed by homeowners first. Nursery growers and retailers should familiarize themselves with this pest, not only to help clientele, but to protect themselves. Make sure to check nursery stock coming from the eastern U.S. to be sure it is free from the pest. Favored plants Brown marmorated stink bugs. include fruit trees (Pyrus, Photo Credit: Deepak Matadha, Prunus, and Malus spp), catalpa, Rutgers University. Norway maple, honeysuckle, butterfly bush, beans, raspberry, and grape. The stink bug is dark mottled brown in color, ranging in length from 14 to 17 millimeters. Similar in shape to a box elder bug or seed bug, it causes damage on leaves and fruit by creating necrotic water soaked-lesions or cat-facing damage in fruit. It will also invade homes in the winter and be a major nuisance to homeowners. Like the name implies, the stink bug has an odor that adds to their nuisance potential.


Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 959 S. Kipling Pky, #200 Lakewood, CO 80226


Soil Restoration through Microbiological Rehabilitation The two images to the left, photographed on the same spot about 24 years apart, were taken to show changes as they take place on a clay site that is uninhabitable by most plants. In 1986, this soil, shown in the first image, was a saline, sodic, alkaline clay that was toxic to most plants and had a pH as high as 9.2. Today, the Arboretum Tomé is on the site located in Los Lunas, N.M. This arboretum has one of the largest oak species collections in the country, as well as redwoods, giant timber bamboos, sugar maples, and many more trees of the world. The site also contains the research and demonstration gardens of Trees That Please Nursery, a CNGA member company owned and operated by Michael Martin Meléndrez. The gardens show the benefit of fixing a soil by changing it from a dispersed clay that’s anoxic (not enough oxygen) with poor porosity and poor structure.

“Humus is essential to soil chemistry. Without it, you can’t have healthy or productive soil,” said Meléndrez.“Soil Secrets also makes use of a beneficial, mutualistic fungi to help plants find water and mineral nutrients from the soil, which is what happens in natural environments.” In manmade landscapes like golf courses, parks, and farms, the soil is graded and mechanically altered, destroying “40,000 years of soil microbiology,” he explained. Besides priming the natural biology of the soil to help healthier plants grow, the two components (humus and fungi) make landscapes more drought tolerant and qualify for use on organic-certified properties. To learn more about this soil restoration process, go online to

The second image to the left, taken in the summer of 2010, shows the clay with a porous, granular structure, which is now able to support healthy root growth. The rehabilitation process was accomplished by flocculating the clay with a specific type of humic substance, manufactured by Soil Secrets Worldwide LLC, also owned by Meléndrez. LooseLeaf March/April 2011

MAR APR 2011  

The theme of the March/April 2011 issue of the LooseLeaf is Excellence: Setting High Standards. This month’s features include discussions wi...