Thirty five years or so ago, I built a wooden rocking horse for my children. This past Christmas, I watched my granddaughter take her first ride on it.

This horse hasn’t always had it easy. The scar shows where I doweled its head back in place after an accidental decapitation by rambunctious kids. The long-gone original wood tail is now woolen. But apart from those details, it wears its age well enough that I dare hope it’ll rock on into a third generation.



It’s that time of year when our shirtsleeved Floridians gaze upon our shivering Pennsylvanians with a smug but benevolent sort of pity. And the day hasn’t come yet, but it will, when the northerners will think, Hmmm, maybe they’re onto something.

Meanwhile, our Panhandlers are popping out Panicum, Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ (always!), Dianthus, Lavandula and Perovskia by the benchful so they’ll be ready when you’re ready, wherever you are. We’re always thinking of you. And unlike the sweater you got for Christmas, our liners are always a perfect fit. 


At press time, this part of PA has been bloody cold, off and on, but we’ve had just one snowfall of note plus a dusting or two, and the firewood is holding out. We’re not even a little bit jealous of Florida -- yet. Meanwhile, our Quaker Staters are cutting back Carex, shipping gobs of Festuca, dividing and conquering more Festuca, and filling trays with Achillea ‘Little Moonshine’ for your springtime pleasure. ‘Little Moonshine’ is just what it sounds like: a compact form of a famous yarrow introduced by famous UK plantsman Alan Bloom, silver-leaved and disease resistant. 


An oft-repeated tale has the SS Warrimoo crossing the point where the International Dateline meets the Equator at the stroke of midnight, December 31, 1899. Therefore, according to the Seattle Times of the day, “the forward half of the ship entered January 1, 1900, while the aft remained in December 31, 1899 – simultaneously inhabiting two hemispheres on two days in two centuries.” Wow! Aren’t you jealous of that ship’s passengers? But... what’s wrong with this great story? This: Technically, the 19th century ended and the 20th began a year later, at midnight December 31, 1900. There was no Year Zero AD; centuries start on 01, not 00. The first century ran from AD 1 to 100, and so on. That’s my take. But a more pragmatic reading says, 18-anything and 19-anything are obviously years in two different centuries!

Either way: Two hemispheres, two years, two days? Yes. Two centuries? If you insist.

My literary hero Mark Twain sailed to Australia on the Warrimoo in 1895, and wrote of it in “Following the Equator.” I’m jealous of the passengers on THAT journey.

Survival of the Fittest: Sempervivum

Don’t you just love perennials that can take it on the chin and keep on grinnin’? The epitome of that tough, pretty subset: Sempervivum. The name is Latin for “Live forever.” A tad optimistic, but it gives you the idea.

Myriad variations in size, form and color share a common theme: Rosettes of succulent leaves (“hens”) makes little copies of themselves (“chicks”) until surrounded. Don’t let the cuteness fool you: These babies and mamas can rough it down to Zone 3!

Our current Availability shows 12 of 16 line items in this category ready to fly from our benches to yours, including the latest addition: Chick Charms®, a brilliant new series from Chris Hansen featuring novel forms and colors. 

ECG OUT & ABOUT: MANTS January 11 - 13

Find inspiration in the beautiful city that inspired Edgar Allen Poe and Francis Scott Key.

Feast on Baltimore’s famed crabcakes. Stroll the beautiful Inner Harbor. Ride the water taxi to funky Fells Point. Be charmed by Charm City.

Most importantly: Visit MANTS and meet ECG’s northern team, in Booths 710-712. You DO want this trip to be deductible, right?

MANTS is a premier green industry event, the be-there-or-be-square winter show. Once you’ve been, you’ll be back evermore. You’d have to be ravin’ mad to miss it! 


Alas, 2016 is the second date on the headstones of numerous headliners:

-- Hort legend Oliver “Buzz” Babikow, brother of ECG co-founder David Babikow.

-- Athletes Muhammed Ali, Joe Garagiola, Gordie Howe.

-- Authors Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, Edward Albee, W.P. Kinsella, Holocaust survivor and chronicler Elie Wiesel, and Richard Adams, whose “Watership Down” is arguably the best book an adult can read to a child.

-- Actors/entertainers Leonard Cohen, Patty Duke, Glen Frey, Merle Haggard, Paul Kantner, Leon Russell, Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher.

-- Medical pioneers Dr. Denton Cooley, heart surgeon, and Dr. Henry Heimlich, whose eponymous ‘maneuver’ once saved Carrie Fisher.

-- Political figures John Glenn, Janet Reno, Nancy Reagan, Antonin Scalia.

-- One-Namers from various categories above: Arnie, Bowie, Fidel, Prince, Zsa-Zsa.

Apologies if we’ve omitted your favorite decedent. May they all RIP.


Everybody knows Calamagrostis‘ Karl Foerster’, but have you met Karl’s handsome cousin, C. arundinacea var. brachytricha? You really should. Sturdy upright blades stand strong all season. Substantial blush-pink flower spikes appear in late summer, and yellow fall foliage extends garden interest. And look! It’s available now, with more coming on for late February! Don’t just sit there, fate is obviously bringing you together.  


I built my rocking horse about 10 years before the Babikow family built ECG, but the family’s horticultural roots go back five generations. Odds are, my handiwork won’t match that. But one can hope.

Happy New Year to all our loyal readers, customers, suppliers, brokers, friends and colleagues. Make a resolution. Read someone a great story. Have a splendid 2017 with your children, and with theirs.

John Friel
Marketing Manager