Texas apparently was to hold a Regional Meeting here. After almost two months with no rain at all, the heavens opened up the night before our July 6 meeting. By the time everyone left late that day, Nacogdoches had received 3 inches of rain.  Hallelujah! We all got wet, but no one seemed to mind, and it was blessedly cool (well, at least below 100 degrees). Despite some worries—such as a fallen tree blocking our road the night before the meeting—all went well and it was wonderful to see our growers again. We had a good turnout with representatives from four states—Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana.
The day began with a tour of my farm, where the biggest attraction was George’s weed-killer creation, which we have named Wiley (see picture). Wiley is made from scrap plywood, half a plastic barrel, angle-iron runners, tarpaulin scraps for curtains at the entrance and exit, and two five-gallon Coke cans. One Coke can is filled with weed-killer mixture and the other contains five gallons of air compressed to 60psi. A pressure regulator between the cans maintains the liquid pressure going to two spray nozzles located inside the blue barrel at 15psig. George uses a garden tractor to pull Wiley between the rows and along the fence. Wiley requires 10 gallons of liquid to cover one acre. Besides being a work-saver, the great beauty of this contraption is that you can kill weeds within inches of the flowers because the vapor spray stays inside Wiley. If you want to know more, give George a call at (936) 615-6292.
Next, the group headed to Stephen F. Austin State University for a tour of the Arboretum led by research associate Dawn Stover, and then indoors to dry off and get some great tips on soil management, bugs and the latest cut flower varieties. During our breaks and lunch, we enjoyed the floral creations of Dr. Michael Maurer, assistant professor in the horticulture department, who did some amazing things with the few flowers that I gave him. At Kim Haven’s suggestion, many growers brought samples of flowers from their farms, which generated a lot of interest.  Vicki Stamback’s stunning lisianthus made us all green with envy.
The most important function of our Regional Meetings and National Conferences is, of course, the networking that we do. We learn so much from each other. But Vicki Stamback is encouraging another form of networking—buying and selling from each other. For example, Vicki expands her product mix with cut peonies from Dual Venture Farm in North Carolina and cut hydrangeas from Flora Pacifica in Oregon. A few years ago, she bought her first tuberose tubers from Tom Wikstrom (Happy Trowels Farm in Utah). Now that they have multiplied many time over, Vicki  sells her excess tuberose bulbs to other growers (including me). The benefits of this type of networking are obvious—you know the grower, you can order exactly what you want and you know it will be quality product.
Buying from another grower may protect me from a big potential problem this fall. I agreed to do the flowers for a small wedding in early November. The bride wants mainly sunflowers, which should not be a problem—unless we have an early frost. Ordering from a wholesaler in case of a freeze is not a good option, because the wholesaler wants the order a couple of weeks before the wedding. So I asked Kim Haven, whose Billabong Farm is in a bit warmer climate, if she might be able to sell me some sunflowers if a frost destroys mine. She agreed and even made the very generous offer to seed some extra trays for me, just in case I need them. This is networking at its best.