From colorful Poinsettias to plenty of mulch, Landscape Nursery Inc. does it all.

ORLANDO – Like a lot of people who love flowers, Gail Hess is always concerned when a major cold spell is coming on.

Even one night can do a lot of damage to her plants, she noted.

“It can happen in one evening,” Hess said.  “It has to be freezing.  A frost doesn’t normally kill them.  A hard freeze does.”

That’s why Hess takes extra care to be sure her plants stay warm on those rare nights when Florida temperatures drop below 32 degrees. But she has a more challenging task than a lot of others, since her garden covers 26 acres.

Gail Hess shows the few remaining poinsettias that haven't sold this holiday season at Landscape Nursery Inc., which she's operated since 1983.

“It takes a while for you to notice your plants are dead,” Hess said.  “I’d cut them back, but I’d wait until the cold is over.  I would just leave them alone for now.  There’s a lot of plant material that will come back, and people don’t realize that, that they just have to wait.”

Hess has had quite a while to learn about what plants need to grow and thrive. Since 1983, she’s operated Landscape Nursery Inc., located at 1955 S. Apopka-Vineland Road in Orlando. Right now, not surprisingly, her front office is covered with poinsettias – but with Christmas just days away, they’re selling fast.

“We’re almost out of poinsettias,” she said. “Our tables were filled with poinsettias. Now they’re mostly sold out.”

That may have been because of the huge sign under one of her tents – “Open to the Public – Poinsettias are Ready,” inviting customers to check out the row after row, table after table, of red, white and pink poinsettias.  A lot of the tables and rows, though, are bare now.

“We have sold a ton of the big ones,” Hess said.  “People like to put them on their front porch.”

Poinsettias also make a great plant for your own garden, as they turn from red to green after the holidays, Hess said.

“You can plant them in your yard and they will come back year after year,” she said.  “Just remember they need darkness at night, a spot where there is no light whatsoever in the evening.”

Her employees – 20 altogether – have stayed busy protecting their plants from the cold spell that arrived on Sunday, Dec. 12, and has brought overnight freezing temperatures to a region more used to 80 degrees in December.

“The cold creates problems for everybody,” she said.  “We have employees who come in and we have to make sure the plastic (covering the tents) is secured. And we have some heaters and fans that we use.”

Hess knows a thing or two about cold winters. She moved to Orlando in 1979 from Wisconsin, although it wasn’t the promise of tropical winters that brought her here. Instead, she was in search of a better business climate.

“The corporate taxes in Wisconsin were the highest in the union,” she said.

Hess has done well over the years operating a nursery in a state where growth has meant a lot of new residential and commercial construction work, and with it the need for landscaping projects to beautify the new properties. 

Customers are invited to come check out the rows of pink, white and red poinsettias at Landscape Nursery Inc.

“We sell all over the state, so we deliver all over the state,’ she said.  “We employ our own drivers and have a couple of mechanics, and we try to be a one stop shop for landscapers.  We grow our own plant material – a lot of others don’t. Most everything we sell is grown here. We buy in some trees and different items. We do the mulches and rocks and compost soil.”

It helps that landscaping is regulated in Orange County through so-called Arbor laws – designed to prevent a builder from abandoning a landscaping project once it’s been started.

“They have to have the landscaping done before you get your occupancy permit,” Hess said. “Years before, they could get their occupancy permit first, and some of the builders wouldn’t finish the landscaping work.  So now we have Arbor laws.”

Landscape Nursery did quite well when the residential housing construction boom was underway, but even with the collapse of the housing market, Hess said a lot of homeowners still hire landscaping firms and private landscaping contractors to create a beautiful yard for them – and those landscapers need the materials for the job.

“We don’t do the actual landscaping work, but we sell to the landscapers,” she said.

Landscape Nursery Inc. is open Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more, call 407-298-1703 or 1-800-330-1703.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

When it comes to massage therapy, silence is golden.

ORLANDO — Wayne Parker is quick to point out that he likes to be quiet where he works – very quiet.

That’s not intended to create a soothing or relaxing work environment for himself, but for his clients. Relaxation, in fact, is the key word at Lotus Blossom Massage.

“We definitely want to give customers something to make them feel good as far as their health goes,” said Parker, the owner of this new business in south Orlando. “There are a lot of people who realize massage therapy is medically necessary to help the body. If they do, their bodies will cleanse themselves.”

Lotus Blossom Massage opened a month ago on John Young Parkway in South Orlando.

About a month ago, Parker and his wife Marlene opened Lotus Blossom Massage in a commercial plaza at 10249 S. John Young Parkway in Orlando, very close to the Central Florida Parkway and International Drive.  Inside, they have five rooms where customers lie on a table and wait to be relaxed, and three full time massage therapists and several on call employees ready to help those customers relieve their stress.

So far, he said, for a brand new business, they’ve been getting a steady flow of customers.

“I am totally new to the business,” said Parker, who spent years working in the trucking industry. “But with the economy being what it is, I think we’re doing well. We are a new establishment, and we are trying to be separate from the others.”

Lotus Blossom has one room, for example, where a pot steams rocks until they’re plenty warm.

These rocks are used for a relaxing hot stone massage.

“This is a room where we do the hot stone massage,” Parker said. “The stones are heated up to a certain temperature, and then they’re placed on parts of the body to relieve muscle tensions. This technique has been around for many years. It’s set at a certain temperature where it relaxes the muscles. It’s a good, relaxing feeling that people enjoy.”

Across the hall is the “couples” room – two separate tables where couples can come in and get massage therapy at the same time.

“We give the customer good services,” Parker said. “I think that’s the key to this business.”

And the reason why he urges visitors and staff alike to be relatively quiet as they walk down the halls? Customers inside these rooms don’t want to be disturbed by loud talking in the hall.

“We have a good, clean, quiet atmosphere here,” Parker said. “If you were to have a real noisy atmosphere, then you can’t relax, and it’s important for people who come in to do just that – relax.

There are a lot of health benefits to getting a massage, Parker said. It can relieve stress in the body, which in turn can help release toxins as well.

“You have to be able to treat the problems people have,” said Lin, who has been working as a massage therapist for the past five years and now treats customers at Lotus Blossom.

“If people come in with a problem in their neck, you have to know what muscle to treat so they can leave here relaxed,” she added.

Massage therapy requires a lot more skill than people realize, Lin said.

Lin has been working as a massage therapist for five years.

“We know a bit about the pressure points of the body, and we do different techniques,” she said.

“All the therapists here are licensed with the state and county,” Parker added.  “We’re very professional here.”

That’s particularly true, he said, since this industry is often misunderstood.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand the massage business,” Parker said.  “They’re not aware of the benefits of a massage. I think a lot of people think it’s frivolous, but it’s not. It keeps the body healthy.”

And that request to be quiet in the hallways really is important, Lin said. Lin noted that she used to work as a hair stylist, which was a very different environment, one where the women who came to her office always wanted to talk while getting their hair done. But at a massage office, silence is more of the rule.

“At a hair salon, most of the clients are women,” she said. “With massage therapy, it’s more male clients, and they like to be quiet. Some customers like to talk, but mostly they like to relax.”

To learn more about Lotus Blossom Massage, call 407-674-7986, email info@lotusblossommassage.com, or log on to www.lotusblossommassage.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

Do you hate flying during the holidays? One commercial pilot says passengers have a great deal these days.

Carol Sugars has been a commercial pilot for UPS since the 1990s, flying international routes.

LONGWOOD – Passenger airlines frequently make the news, but usually it’s not for the kind of reasons that make the airlines’ public relations departments happy.

There have been the terrorist attacks, from 9-11 to incidents that wind up being known as attacks by the “shoe bomber” or the “underwear bomber.”

There are passenger complaints that any semblance of leg room is disappearing and that meals no longer get served.

And then there are those incidents where passengers got stuck on a plane for up to 10 hours on the runway, unable to reach their gate, prompting Congress to pass a passenger’s bill of rights.

At a time when holiday traveling is at a premium, the airlines might be bracing for another slew of “What’s wrong with the airlines?” stories. Carol Sugars, though, thinks the public needs some educating about how the system actually works.

Take, for example, complaints about how airlines are putting less and less of an emphasis on comfort. Less room between seats, no meals, none of the creature comforts that passengers once expected when they fly.

Consider what you’re getting instead, Sugars noted: affordable pricing. Airlines are getting rid of the frills to keep the price of the tickets competitive.

“In the 1950s, we invented the jet airliner,” she said. “It became significantly quicker to fly. As the industry expanded, it became more affordable to fly. Up until the 1970s, flying on an airplane was a big deal. You did it maybe once a year on vacation.”

Today, some passengers fly multiple times a year – if the price is right, she added.

“The airlines provide a service and take you and all your bags from A to B, which is all you want to do,” Sugars said. “It all depends on price. People are prepared to sit there and not get peanuts if they can get to New York for $75. It’s mass transit.”

Sugars knows a thing or two about the airline industry. Specializing in Avionics/Aerospace Systems engineering, Sugars has been involved in various design and development projects involving radar, communications, noise cancellation technology and aviation fuels.

In the past few decades, Sugars has logged more than 10,000 hours of flight time and flown more than 50 different types of aircraft all over the world, from light single engine to four engine heavy jets. She holds licenses for Airline Transport Pilot, Flight Engineer, Flight Instructor (FAA Gold Seal) and Ground Instructor.

It’s a field the native of Ilkeston, England, never expected to get into. Back in the 1960s, she noted, it was strictly a man’s job.

“I’ve been interested in aviation since I was young, as long as I can remember,” said Sugars, who now lives in Longwood. “A major factor of life in the 1960s was the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, and it was reflected in television shows, things like ‘Star Trek.’  Space travel leads into aviation, and I see aviation as a very science-oriented career.”

Although Sugars went to a good school, in the 1960s, “the girls weren’t very career-oriented,” while the boys had the option of pursuing an apprenticeship with Rolls Royce, a factory in the nearby town of Derby that made aircraft engines.

“To me it was such a distant dream that I didn’t pursue aviation,” she said. “There were no jobs for females as pilots back then.”

Instead, Sugars took a different path, and joined the Royal British Air Force, which enabled her to take a non-combat role in the field of Air Traffic Control. She did it for six years, then left, “because my career progression wasn’t what I wanted it to be.”

She worked temporarily for a financial firm, but that wasn’t what she really wanted, either.

“I got in my car one day and drove to the airport and, looking around, said ‘I’m going to learn to be a pilot,’ “ she said.

Carol Sugars drove to the airport one day, looked around, and decided she wanted to be a pilot.

Sugars went to work for a foreign company that provided Air Traffic Control services, and saved up enough money to relocate to the United States, where she took flying lessons in Missouri – a “fairly typical civilian flight route” to getting a commercial pilot’s license, she said.

In the years that followed, Sugars flew a medical helicopter in St. Louis, then did freight flying in Kansas, delivering items as diverse as blood supplies to labs and movies to local cinemas – “the daily things that go to a small community,” she said.

She also flew auto parts to plants across Michigan, a job that got her into jets and flying time sensitive cargo.  It also lead to a relocation to Fort Lauderdale, where she began training to be a flight engineer in Miami.  Then in the late 1990s, she was hired by UPS to fly Boeing 757s and Boeing 767s on international routes.

One of her proudest moments over the years was when Sugars, acting as chief pilot for Green Flight International, wrote and conducted flight test engineering programs to enable experimental jet flight operations on biofuels. In November 2007 she made the world’s first flight of a jet aircraft powered solely by a 100 percent renewable biofuel, followed in 2008 by the first U.S. coast to coast jet flight using the same renewable fuel technology.

“I made the genuine world’s first flight on biofuel,” she said. “The project was done not as an engineering development, it was done primarily to raise awareness. We need to switch to alternative fuels.”

She did it flying an aircraft made in 1968.

“It was an experimental flight test program, and yes there were risks and unknowns,” she said. “But when you ask the pilot, ‘Were you scared, were there fears,’ physical dangers are relatively easy to predict in aviation. The major fear that I had was the experiment would be a failure. There was nothing inordinately dangerous about it.”

The same is true when people read about or see television news coverage of planes that crash.  With the exception of terrorist attacks, flights that crash can always be blamed on human error, she said.

“All of them are ultimately human failures,” she said. “The plane wasn’t properly maintained – human failure. It wasn’t properly designed – human failure. They’re all human failings.”

Although Sugars’ career has been in commercial aviation, she’s well aware of the concerns and complaints that people have about passenger flights. She said passengers should worry less how comfortable a flight is if the ticket price fits within their budget.

“It’s comfortable, it’s efficient, and you get good service,’ she said. “They’re reliable and they run on time.”

Sugars doesn’t think Congress needed to approve legislation banning an airline from keeping passengers on a plane for hours on the runway.

“The reason you don’t get off the airplane is you can’t get to your gate,” she said. “We have drastically increased the number of airplanes compared to keeping the same number of gates. It’s exactly like pulling into a parking lot that’s full. You can’t get a space until someone backs out. You’ve got to cure the disease, not the symptoms. Get more gates, or have an air traffic control system that can handle the flow.”

And what about passenger complaints about intrusive security measures – everything from removing their shoes to getting a pat down from security workers to going through screening devices that leave you feeling naked in the eyes of the airports? Are these efforts really making people safer?

No, Sugars said, and she called all these measures another bad idea from an over regulating government.

“It’s window dressing,” she said. “What you go through at the airport is window dressing. Pilots were taught, prior to 9-11, if you got hijacked, you comply. Typically when a plane got hijacked, people wanted to get somewhere – ‘Take me to Cuba or I’ll slit this woman’s throat.’ “

Suicide bombers changed that, and today, she said, the major security device has been to make it virtually impossible for a terrorist to get into the cockpit to take control of the plane.

“We’re secured the cockpit,” she said. “We’ve armored the cockpit door. The doors are now bulletproof. Now the pilots can stay in the cockpit securely while people in the cabin are being murdered.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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