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Into the Garden: Some want an alternative to Crocs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Those are really attractive Crocs."

This is going around the Internet as one of those things you'll never hear someone say! Of course, the Internet post is describing the foam clogs originally developed as a spa shoe that have polarized the fashionistas from the comfort-seekers.

Our family's favorite fashion guru, Tim Gunn ("Project Runway"), told Time magazine: "[T]he Croc -- it looks like a plastic hoof. How can you take that seriously?"

An anti-Croc Facebook page dedicated to eliminating the shoes has 1.6 million "likers," and they were sixth on the "worst" list on Maxim's "The 10 Best & Worst Things to Happen to Men in 2007."

I've seen flowered ones, decorated ones and a rainbow of colored ones. When I asked my fashion-conscious daughter what she thought of the pale pink ones I got for her, her response was, "Really? Those are not cute!"

Our family owns several pairs of the spongy, rubbery clogs: the pink ones, navy ones, green ones and even a pair in camo. Kept by the back door and in the garage, they are handy for a quick trip outside to grab a few logs for the fireplace or for taking out the trash.

I wore them while gardening, but they were never quite right. When they get wet, they are slippery on the inside and on the outside; they slide on our smooth concrete garage floor and my feet slide inside of them.

After twisting my ankle wearing a pair late last summer, I began a quest for another pair of handy gardening clogs. While I liked how the Bogs booties were made, I wanted easy-to-slip-on clogs.

Then, I received a pair of Bogs clogs as a gift -- and I'm sold. The style is named Bogs Rue, and these are not your average gardening clogs.

First, they are more expensive than Crocs -- manufacturer's suggested retail price is $70. But you get what you pay for. According to the people at Bogs, they have a "Euro-fit with a wider toe box and narrower heel."

Made of something called Neo-tech and Airmesh lining, plus a latex sponge cushioning, they have great traction. There's a stretch collar that makes them fit well as well as a removable insole. They are available in black, blue, port and green.

I've seen Bogs at Cornucopia, and I just saw on a billboard that they are sold at Shoe Carnival. Check them out.

Poinsettia sales

Poinsettias, synonymous with the Christmas season, used to be a "premium" plant that was given as a special gift or bought to be a centerpiece on the Christmas table. Now, they are more widely available, and the greenhouse industry is pondering the future of the popular plant.

According to Today's Garden Center managing editor Kevin Yanik, the perceived value of the poinsettia has diminished.

"Poinsettias have evolved into commodity items consumers can purchase for as little as 99 cents, and independent retailers have little hope their poinsettia sales will take off in coming years," Yanik said.

Yanik spoke to a Virginia florist who conceded that the "days of selling poinsettias as $25 or $50 floral gifts are gone." That florist went on to suggest that independent garden centers and florists should explore alternative Christmas crops like amaryllis, hyacinths and tulips, and the nostalgic Christmas cactus.

Yanik writes, in Greenhouse Grower magazine, that the average retail price for a 10-inch potted poinsettia went from $25.42 in 2000 to $31.92 in 2011. Of those sold by retailers, 97.5 percent of the poinsettias in 2011 were red, according to Yanik, with novelty colors selling only 2.1 percent.

Forestry workshop series

West Virginia State University Extension Service is launching a series of workshops pertaining to various topics in urban forestry. Workshops will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley. Topics and dates are as follows:

March 6: Tree pruning and maintenance

April 10: Site and species selection

May 8: Tree planting

The workshops are designed to attract homeowners looking to improve the look of their landscape, as well as community leaders hoping to add some landscaping appeal to their towns.

"It is very important to understand what a tree needs to be healthy and how to keep it healthy," says Brad Cochran, extension associate for agriculture and natural resources. "These workshops will provide for participants a solid foundation to begin and sustain their urban forestry projects."

Each workshop costs $10 to attend. Registration is required; contact WVSU Extension Service at 304-766-4288 or via email at extension@wvstateu.edu. Door prizes will be given away at each event.

The Cedar Lakes Conference Center is located at 82 FFA Drive in Ripley. The workshops will be held in Jackson Hall.

Colossal cabbage

Barrackville Elementary School third-grader Nicole Butler grew a humongous cabbage and was randomly chosen by West Virginia's Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass as the state's winner in the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. Butler will receive a $1,000 savings bond toward education from Bonnie Plants.

More than 4,000 West Virginia students participated in the contest, with 1.5 million third-graders in 48 states joining in the hands-on gardening experience.

Each year, Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, trucks free O.S. Cross, or "oversized," cabbage plants to third-grade classrooms whose teachers have signed up for the program online at www.bonnieplants.com. If nurtured and cared for, kids can grow green, giant cabbages, some tipping the scales at 40 pounds.

At the end of the growing season, teachers from each class select the student who has grown the best cabbage, based on size and appearance. A picture of the cabbage and the student is submitted to Bonnie Plants. That student's name is then entered in a statewide drawing. The winners of each state's drawing are randomly selected by the Commission of Agriculture's office, state by state.

Why a cabbage? Cabbages were the first plant sold by Bonnie in 1918. Visit www.bonnieplants.com.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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