Holiday sparkles throughout retail nursery center
COCKEYSVILLE, Md. — This time of year, if you’re heading north on York Road towards the Hunt Valley area in Baltimore County, it’s hard to miss the holiday cheer emanating from Valley View Farms’ parking lot and outside nursery areas.
Even in mid-November, more than a week before Thanksgiving, the lights sparkled from every elevated space — tree, light pole, building facade — with Andy Foard, its current owner, out by the York Road entrance employing his creative carpentry skills to erect a sculpture fountain.
Self-professed “Christmas enthusiasts since, well, almost Day 1,” when its original owners, Billy and Punkey Foard, Andy’s father and uncle, opened a vegetable stand to complement its wholesale vegetable plant operation, Valley View Farms has become known throughout much of the Baltimore region as “one of the largest, most awe-inspiring Christmas shops” with an enormous selection of not only trees, greenery and holiday plants, but also everything else “you need to bring the spirit of the season into your home,” including an international selection of ornaments and gifts.
You might have caught a glimpse of Valley View’s offerings on WBAL-TV’s broadcast news set during the holiday season.
Poinsettias grown in Valley View’s greenhouses have been a part of WBAL-TV’s news set for the last 25 years; and, in 2013, the station asked Valley View to bring its full holiday decorating expertise to the set, which resulted in the addition of trees, wreaths and other festive greenery alongside its lush poinsettias.
Those poinsettias fill literally to the ceiling both sides of a long aisle in the extensive greenhouse section at Valley View’s retail center.
Pots of both regular poinsettias and the new Prinsettia varieties fill planting benches on one side and a stairstep display on the other, all crowned with hanging baskets overflowing with the Prinsettias, a naturally compact and multi-branching poinsettia with fuller ‘flower clusters’ whose layered smaller bracts create the illusion of double blooms. Their nursery personnel first encountered these lush new poinsettia varieties during the 2015 season, recalled Carrie Engel, Valley View’s greenhouse manager, both as part of Longwood Gardens’ holiday display and at the poinsettia trials held in November that year by Penn State University.
Impressed with their durability and hardiness, as well as their natural centerpiece propensities, “we brought them in from Hillcrest Nursery, one of our local Maryland growers, in 2016 and 2017 before asking John [Miller, our head grower for the farm and greenhouses,] to grow them last year,” said Engel.
“They keep gaining in popularity for us and currently account for about 25 percent of the poinsettias John grows.”
“We do two greenhouses’ worth” of the various poinsettia varieties, said Miller. “We could grow way more, but we don’t do wholesale and we also don’t do the church orders anymore because we would have to hold them too late in the season.”
Both decisions reflect Miller’s and Valley View’s practical outlook on the retail nursery business. “We do all the premium crops and the hanging baskets in the greenhouses and work with other local growers who can do the rest more efficiently,” said Miller.
Some of those plant crops include vegetable plants grown from seed in the spring and chrysanthemums grown outside in a deer fenced, irrigated field in the summer and fall.
Like the other plant-focused departments, Scott Carbone, Valley View’s Nursery Manager and head of the all-important holiday greenery department, sources his trees and greenery as locally as possible. While the majority of his annual orders are comprised of premium grade Fraser firs, he also orders smaller orders of premium grade Douglas firs and Concolors.
That latter variety of evergreen tree, Carbone first brought in on consignment two years ago when he decided to stop ordering Noble firs, which come from much further distances than the Fraser or Douglas trees. Impressed that first year with how long they lasted as both a cut tree and wreath greenery, Carbone has continued to order more of the Concolors for both last year and this.
In fact, Carbone related, “Last year, we had a lady come back with a Concolor wreath in February to ask what it was because it lasted so long. So, when folks ask what the best long-lasting wreath is, we always suggest Fraser or Concolor wreaths.”
Along with the trees and the wreaths, Carbone also oversees an immense variety of natural décor, such as dried pods, cotton balls on stems and blueberry twigs with red and green colorations.
“I think the shiny and glittery items are taking more of a back seat to the natural, rustic look,” he said.
“Over the last few years, the department has really expanded,” he continued, “and we’ve been experimenting with a bunch of new things.”
Some of those new items include birch logs, which Carbone proclaimed “a big hit,” and fresh-cut eucalyptus, which he began carrying last year at a customer’s request.
“I ordered a few for her, they came in one afternoon and by the next morning, they were gone,” Carbone explained. “It kept cycling that way through all of last season.”
That sort of warm accommodating customer service prevails throughout Valley View Farms, no matter the season.
Come each November, it’s also why customers flock to the retail center every year to scoop up inspiring ideas and bring Valley View’s holiday magic home.