The National Conference in Reston was a great experience for me both as Regional Director to the Board, and as a grower. There were many good speakers and meaningful topics covered. My report this quarter is a summary of information I learned from various speakers.
Alicain Carlson, (who also presented at our Southeastern Regional Meeting in August), of North Carolina State University explained how to grow eucomis as a cut. Eucomis, also called pineapple lily, flowers the first year from bulbs. The most promising cultivars are ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, ‘Tugela Jade’, and ‘Tagela Ruby Pink’. These are very interesting cuts, with an amazing vase life of up to 50 days. The larger the bulb, the more flowers are produced, which are best cut when ¾ of florets are open. I am planning to try eucomis in the spring as a new cut to offer my florists, who will hopefully love this unusual flower.
Polly Hutchinson of Robin Hollow Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island (and our new ASCFG President) gave an inspiring and motivational presentation on the topic of fall sales. She reminded me of the importance of good sound record-keeping through the use of a seeding calendar. The seeding calendar is used to keep track of succession planting dates, days to crop maturity, etc. This way, we can know when we need to plant that next row of sunflowers when it’s that busy time of year and we forgot when we last planted. The calendar will help us to go back and reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and then make improvements.
Another important message stressed by Polly was to plant one succession planting that you are sure won’t make it….but, then….what if it does? Extra money in your pocket that wasn’t expected.
Another conference highlight was the tour of Dave Dowling’s Farmhouse Flowers & Plants, located in a beautiful and picturesque location. I was very surprised to see anemones and sunflowers grown in lily bulb crates. I think I’m going to give this a try. After all, it was Dave who introduced me to growing lilies in crates. Dave also grows callas in 6” pots instead of crates, which he said cuts down on disease.
Here in South Carolina, eucalyptus trees are grown outside and typically overwinter fine unless the plant is young and small. So I was surprised to see eucalyptus grown in the hoophouse, which gave Tim Mills (Floral & Hardy Farm, Lexington, South Carolina) and me a good laugh. Then, I was amazed at Dave’s huge hydrangeas with dried uncut flower heads as large as soccer balls. Next year, call me, Dave, and I’ll sell those for you!
Traditionally, the highlight of the conference for many is the opportunity to informally meet and visit, at meal times or break times, to talk with fellow growers from all over the country. This allows the sharing of our collective experiences – good and bad, and gaining insight on how other growers grow and how we can improve. The wisdom gained through these informal talks is endless. I learned some new varieties to grow, special varieties of snaps, how to get better deals on seeds and bulbs, etc. I enjoyed hearing other growers’ techniques, new approaches to seed germination, and realized I might need to change some bad habits with more tried and true techniques that seasoned growers use. This sums up the conference for me: folks helping each other to be better growers of amazing cut flowers.
On a personal note, many thanks to Tim and Donna Mills for letting me hitch a ride back to South Carolina with them, and for patiently answering my thousand or so questions.