Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 14
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

Advertise in Town Topics

Iris Interiors

Advertise in Town Topics

Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

FAMILY FOCUS: “We are hoping for a good season ahead, with lots of planting going on. We look forward to helping more people have a successful garden.” The Obal family — foreground, Walter, Sr. and Kate; background: Tom and Walt, Jr. — are shown by a group of evergreen magnolias at their garden center.

Obal Garden Center at 518 Alexander Road Offers Full Selection of Springtime Choices

Now is the time for pansies and primroses, but the petunias have to wait. If you’re getting the garden ready, it’s still early for the annual flowering plants, but the perennials can be safely put in the ground.

It’s also time to get the garden ready for planting, advises Walter Obal, owner of Obal Garden Center at 518 Alexander Road. “You can start cleaning up the beds now, seed the lawn, and add nutrients to the soil. Preparation is so important. I tell customers: ‘remember, a $50 hole for a $5 plant!’

“I also recommend removing 50 percent of the soil in last year’s planters and putting in new potting soil, and condition it with compost or humus. The snow cover this winter was a good protection and created a good mulch.”

Also, adds Mr. Obal’s son, Tom: “It’s hard to establish an exact date, but it is best to start crabgrass prevention as soon as the forsythia is in mid-bloom. You can also prune back the roses, if it wasn’t done in the fall. Most things can be pruned now, including maple trees and bushes, but not flowering bushes.

“It’s also a perfect time to feed evergreens with Hollytone and to spray dormant oil on all plants, including azaleas and rose bushes. In addition, now it’s appropriate to fertilize trees with spikes. And it’s time to plant grass seed, as soon as possible.”

Going to Obal’s for gardening needs is a long-time Princeton tradition. The garden center was started in 1950 by John Obal, and Walter Obal joined his uncle in the business in 1959. Originally located at the site of what is now Larini’s Service Center, it moved to its current location in 1965.

Family Operation

Mr. Obal purchased the business in 1985, and today it is truly a family operation, with his wife Kate and sons Walt, Jr. and Tom all involved in the day-to-day business.

“The family association makes it special,” he notes. “We want to do our best for people, and we are always courteous and helpful. We try to be as knowledgeable as we can, and if we can’t answer a question properly, we’ll try to get the information. People know they can count on us, and we have many customers from way back.”

“We do a lot of one-on-one service, and we have lots of regular customers and also many referrals,” adds Walt Obal, Jr., who specializes in landscape consulting, planting, and perennials. “People come back to us because of our knowledge. We know the soil, we know Princeton, and the surrounding area, and what grows well here.”

In addition, points out Mr. Walter Obal, Sr., new varieties of plants are always coming along, and the Obals attend garden shows and keep up-to-date with the latest information.

Peak season is upon them, with April, May, and June the busiest times, and May the busiest month of all, says Mr. Obal. Gardening is one of the most popular leisure time activities, and it is a known stress-reliever. Mr. Obal notes that there is no decline in the numbers of people caught up in the activity.

“I think with the difficulties in the economy, more people are staying home, traveling less, and they want to make their home environment nice, with a garden. And more people are also growing vegetables now and having herb gardens.”

Careful Planning

Careful planning — and planting — can help to ensure a colorful and flourishing garden. An awareness of sun or shade-loving plants and those that can withstand drought and deer is important when laying out a garden.

And know when to plant. You will see crocuses, tulips, daffodils, and forsythia blooming now, and also such cold crops as lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, and peas, can be planted now. Summer-flowering bulbs, including gladiolas and lilies can also be planted now. Begonias are often started indoors and then moved outside when the weather is warmer. Dahlias can also be planted the end of the month.

All trees and shrubs can be planted now, notes Mr. Obal. Azalea and rhododendrons are very popular, as are lilacs, cherry trees, magnolias, dogwood, and many others. After the mid-March deluge and wicked winds, which damaged or destroyed so many trees, homeowners may wish to replenish. “We have seven and eight feet trees,” reports Mr. Obal.

For plants such as impatiens, petunias, snapdragons, and marigolds, and so many of the other colorful annuals, wait to plant until mid-May, when the threat of frost is gone, he advises. That is time to plant tomatoes as well. Geraniums, which are hardier, can be planted earlier, around mid-April.

One of the nicest aspects about planning a perennial garden (in addition to the fact they they reappear every spring and summer) is their varied blooming time. Many customers enjoy an on-going eight-month seasonal garden, with different plants blooming from spring, then summer, and into October, points out Mr. Obal. This way there is continuous color in the garden.

Border plants, such as alyssum and ageratum are attractive and myrtle and pachysandra are favorite ground covers. An advantage of the latter two is their inhospitality to deer.

Bird Feeders

Deer, of course, pose a continuing challenge to gardeners. Obal’s carries a large variety of repellents, and can also recommend plants that deer dislike.

Another Obal’s specialty is the large selection of bird feeders, houses, and feed. Many people feed birds year-round now, and Obal’s always has a good supply.

In addition, customers will find a complete selection of fertilizers, potting soil, mulch, and peat moss, as well as all the necessary tools. Garden statuary, ornaments, trellises, sundials, wind chimes, and fountains are big sellers, and Obal’s carries a full assortment of planters in all sizes.

To walk through Obal’s and see the extensive display of plants and flowers is truly a visual pleasure. The lovely setting provides a vista of color as rows and rows of blooming plants are set out for visitors to enjoy. And Obal’s down-to-earth, relaxed atmosphere continues to appeal to their many customers, new and old alike.

“I really enjoy seeing our customers come in,” says Mrs. Obal. “So many have become friends over the years. And this is such nice work — seeing things grow.”

Obal’s is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 to 4, Sunday 11 to 3. (609) 452-2401.

Return to Top | Go to Princeton Personality

Town Topics® may be purchased on Wednesday mornings at the following locations: Princeton — McCaffrey’s, Cox’s, Kiosk (Palmer Square), Krauszer’s (State Road), Olives, Speedy Mart (State Road), Wawa (University Place); Hopewell — Village Express; Rocky Hill — Wawa (Route 518); Pennington — Pennington Market.
Copyright© Town Topics®, Inc. 2011.