Six months ago, nearly a lifetime for a cut flower grower, I wrote about the shaping of desperately dry 2006 season.  In the Mid-Atlantic, more precisely here in central Virginia, we were entering a growing season with a rainfall deficit of 12-14 inches, and it was only March.  There are plenty of reasons for sleep loss at that time of year, but the threat, if not reality, of another drought year is more than a little daunting.  Luckily we came out of that tailspin and received sufficient rainfall to sustain a very prolific season.  Now, the only thing that keeps me from a good night’s sleep is thinking about next season.
    
Those of who attended the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting this past June in Emmaus, Pennsylvania knew all too well that the gods were toying with us.  That day alone it rained at least 5 inches during our meeting, but we were a stoic group, and our hosts at Pheasant Hill Farm, Melanie and George DeVault, and Melanie’s flower growing partner Linda Essert-Kuchar, put on quite a show despite the torrent—no, literal walls of rain— that fell around us.  I personally would like to thank Melanie, Linda and George for opening their farm to nearly 60 soggy growers.  Luckily the clouds parted and allowed us just enough time to tour the well-tended hoophouses and beds of flowers and vegetables.  Our lunch, which was nearly all home-prepared, was excellent.  And special thanks are due to fellow members Steve Bogash and Bob Ambrose for their thoughtful presentations.  Very well done!
    
Regional Meetings, I have found, are the best way to get together with fellow growers in our respective growing areas to exchange ideas, commiserate, share a meal and take a break in our otherwise insanely hectic lives.  For 2006 I noticed that each and every ASCFG Region that held a Regional Meeting had a program that would be hard to beat.  I wanted to attend them all.  
    
Fortunately I had the privilege of attending the Southeast Regional Meeting, put together by Leah Cook and hosted by Sybil and Gary Calder, at the Calder’s place, Sunrise to Sunset Farm in Clayton, North Carolina.  And what a great day it was, if only that we were dry!
    
I encourage everyone to consider attending a meeting outside of your home region.  Getting out of our comfort zone is a good thing.  You never know what you’ll see and learn.
    
Follow-up:  Two changes I made this season have so far proven successful and I’d like to share them with you.
    
First is about tuberose.  Please hear me clearly: I am not suggesting that anyone do as I have done, but it did work for me.  I successfully overwintered two large beds of tuberose.  Here in central Virginia, in zone 7A, our winters have become increasingly milder; it rarely snows, and the ground hasn’t had a hard freeze for at least four years.  And I must admit I hate digging those tubers at the end of an already punishing season.  
    
In our bible, Specialty Cut Flowers, Armitage and Laushman write that from zone 7 and above, tuberose will over winter provided they’re well mulched.  After the foliage died back, I covered the beds with 6-8 inches of straw and 2 layers of row cover.  I have never had a better crop of tuberose as I have had this year.  The stems are at least 36 inches tall and ¼ inch thick, and each plant had more blooms than ever before.  I know I’ll need to divide them at some point in the future, but for this year and the next two or three, those tubers are going to stay put!
    
The second change I made for 2006 is making my business smaller.  Counterintuitive I know, but at this point in the season I can already tell I’m doing better.  Working smaller has meant for me, a smaller payroll, lower fuel cost, and less capitalization to mention a few of the many  benefits.  I dare say I may be a tad saner than past years, at this point in the season especially.  I have been able to bring more product to a more focused market.  Put another way, I can sell more with less effort.  Obviously there’s more to it than that, but so far I’m satisfied with the way things have gone this season and plan to get just a bit smaller for 2007.  
    
Enjoy the cooler weather and the waning season.  I look forward to seeing y’all in San Jose!