Now’s the time of year when I come home from the National Conference, go through all the papers I brought home, and try to make sense of my  notes.  Here are just a few of the many things I learned in San Jose.

•    Janet Foss shared with me how to get cosmos to flower earlier. Because it  needs long days to bloom, simply vernalize it when in the seedling stage  by giving it 14 hours of dark for 4 weeks before planting out.
•    Gail Hayden from the California Farmers’ Market Association gave me a new  idea for how to greet my market customers. Ask them “Do you need flowers  to get you into trouble or out of trouble?”
•    Susan Corrigan shared a great idea for market signs. Use photo album pockets attached to lengths of wooden sticks. Index cards easily slide in and out to quick change prices or signage as needed.
•    Kim Morrill, AIFD, presented a wonderful talk on floral trends in front of an amazing display of flowers that she had created. Her talk was entitled “Living  Every Day With Flowers” and isn’t that what we’d like all our customers to learn to do?
•    Joan Thorndike gave me thoughtful insight into simplifying how I handle weddings and how to take away some of the stress. She has found a niche selling just the flowers, no corsages or elaborate altar pieces to get just right, just sell them the flowers. Another great idea of hers is to rent her space out to the wedding party to do their arranging. See Joan’s article on page 35.
•    Many of us were a little unsure about what John Farley, a San Francisco television meteorologist, would have to tell us about being our own weatherman, but he was very  entertaining and honest as to how much the odds are stacked against all weather forecasters trying to predict—with much accuracy—anything farther than a day or two out.
•    Steve Tjosvold from the UC Cooperative Extension Service has an absolute rule: Never let weeds go to seed— NEVER! When he provided us with the numbers of how  many seeds one weed plant can  produce, it was easy to see why.  An example: one  lambs-quarters plant can produce 72,450 seeds!  I had no idea.
•    A ladybug that feeds on powdery mildew. Now that’s what I need!   Ashy gray ladybird, or Psyllobora vigintimaculata, as it’s known to the  professionals, is native to all of North America. I ‘ll be looking for this one, because I’ve all but given up on growing delphinium due to the damage it gets from mildew.
•    Ron Godin of the Western Colorado Research Center convinced me I’m not  getting the results I need from the soil tests I’m sending to the lab at  Iowa State. Along with lots of other great soil information he provided  the names of some other labs in the Midwest where I could send samples and get a much better analysis of how I need to amend. His e-mail address is [email protected]  and his web site is at http://www.colostate.edu/programs/wcrc/infopages/ron.htm
    
Several new varieties to try next year caught my eye.
    
Ornamental pepper ‘On the Top Round Red’.  I actually got this one to grow in my test plot seed and kept waiting for it to turn red. Forget that and pick it in the black stage because it looks fabulous with green and white flowers.
    
Lisianthus ‘Fioretti’. A miniature true spray type of lisianthus whose flower size is 1/3 of other lisianthus types.
    
Stock ‘Vivas’.  This stock needs no cold treatment, but is only 60 % doubles.
    
Delphinium belladonna ‘Trick’.  The florets on this delphinium are very different in that they look like little orchids. It’s very nice but available only by tissue culture. I wonder if it’s more resistant to powdery  mildew?
    
Another great thing about this Conference was all the first-time attendees we had!  
    
These tidbits are just a sampling of all I learned this year in San Jose. But the real reason I enjoy conferences so much is just getting to visit with all you growers out there who rejuvenate my spirit after a long season of hard work.

A restful winter to you all.