Spring is well underway and we are already thinking of those hot unbearable days of summer. What to plant, when to plant, how many of each and what will grow in this regions heat. On March 4th almost 100 growers descended on the Arnosky farm in Blanco, Texas. After hearing all of Frank and Pam’s weather-related stories, you wonder if we can grow any flowers here in Texas but with an unending desire you can. The Arnoskys know their farm well, and have picked out the best areas to make beds. They manage to pump out loads of flowers despite floods, droughts, insects, deer, rabbits, wild hogs, high winds, and flying T-posts. It’s one of those stories that Frank told so well.

The morning started off with an overview of all they grow. After a delicious lunch provided by a local caterer we were dispersed off to their separate growing areas. Frank and Pam have 22 greenhouses and switch out crops for different times of the year. I posted some pictures on the Community Network for those of you unable to make it. There were about 40 members just from our South and Central Region at the meeting and it was so nice to meet so many of you. I was really intrigued to see their farm because my market has changed since last year and I mainly sell to a retailer  in Houston and had a lot of questions about their mass marketing scheme.

The market you have for your flowers seems to denote the crops you grow. While I was selling at the farmers’ market, the way I sold my flowers was different in the way that a grocery chain likes straight bunches. Their own designers like using the flowers in their designs and it seems that the public, at least in our area, is buying a lot of monochrome straight bunch items. Making straight bunches is a lot easier than trying to make bouquets. We still sell a lot of bouquets, but after we make all our straight bunches.

I know I talk a lot about the Karma dahlias I grow but after trying 12 different colors this year, I wanted to give an update of which ones are the best for me. Karma ‘Naomi’, ‘Ventura’ and ‘Lagoon’ week after week produce tons of saleable stems for tall straight bunches. ‘Serena’, ‘Irene’, ‘Prospero’ and ‘Thalia’ have beautiful blooms but not as many. ‘Chocolate’ is not prolific but oh my if you love chocolate, you will love this bloom. ‘Amanda’ has too short of internodes and the flower is surrounded by stem growth higher than the bloom. ‘Bon Bini’ is pretty but not many blooms. ‘Fushiana’ is a beautiful purple-pink color but again not many blooms.

This year I bit the bullet and decided to try tulips again. I decided on parrot tulips and chose three varieties: ‘Weber’s Parrot’, ‘Salmon’, and ‘Flaming Parrot’. I ordered 5 degree tulips from Gloeckner and planted 30 per crate, about 2’’ deep. I planted half of the 1500 in a minimally heated greenhouse and the other half in an unheated greenhouse. This was enough to stop them from blooming all at once. In three weeks from planting, I started picking my first tulips. ‘Weber’s Parrot’ was the first to bloom followed by ‘Salmon’ and then ‘Flaming Parrot’. I was able to pick tulips over a three-week period and  they did fill in a slot when I didn’t have a lot of flowers and they were beautiful.

We harvested with the bulb on and sold them like that in sleeves of 5 tulips and we were able to get $1.00 per stem. The bulbs with freight were an average of 42 cents each. I had planted them in crates that I had grown lilies in and just planted them on top of the lily bulbs that were in the crate from last year and now last year’s lilies are coming up behind the harvested tulips. I watered them in with fish emulsion when I planted them and once during their crop time. This is the only fertilization they received. One of the designers at the store where I sold them said they were magnificent and couldn’t believe how large they opened up to and that they lasted really well.

We all wish and hope for a flower grower to be near us so that we can talk flowers to no end and that is what has happened to me. Denise Taft, Freyburg Flower Farm has moved into my area to retire. Her lovely new home is surrounded by contoured flower beds. Imagine: she is retired and is growing flowers. Denise attended our Regional Meeting last year along with her husband Richard and after that meeting she started working for me on Wednesdays when we do all our picking and packing for our weekly sales. She wanted to come by and pick my brain about flower growing and I told her better yet, why don’t you come work for me. Denise is so excited about growing and does everything according to the book or directions. She read Lynn Byczynski’s book and constructed Lynn’s germination project. She gets excellent germination using her setup and watches those little seedlings like little babies. She also has 10 grandchildren which she is often babysitting. She is a very caring person and it transfers to her love for plants.

Denise nourishes her plants with Garrett juice from Howard Garrett in Dallas, a.k.a. the Dirt Doctor. Her recipe for Garrett Juice is 1 cup compost tea, 1 oz. liquid molasses, 1 oz. apple cider vinegar, 1 oz. fish emulsion and 1 oz. liquid seaweed to one gallon of water. She sprays this mixture on the foliage every other week. She believes it also enhances her soil. She makes her compost tea by filling a five-gallon bucket half full with compost and the rest water. She uses a fish bucket aerator to mix and put oxygen into the tea and does this for 24 hours and then strains off the tea. Denise also makes 25 gallons of Garrett Juice at one time and uses a 25 gallon sprayer to apply. To make a large batch she uses 1 gallon compost tea, 1 pint seaweed, 1 pint apple cider vinegar, 1 pint molasses and 1 pint fish emulsion. She uses 1½ cups of concentrate per gallon of spray. She also uses 2 oz. of orange oil per gallon of water to spray for fire ants. She does this separately from her fertilization program.

The officers and directors held their spring board meeting in San Antonio the day before the meeting at Arnoskys, and I feel we had an awesome board meeting. We discussed the 2014 conference which will probably be held near Philadelphia, with a stop at Longwood Gardens. We have some very active growers working with our government to promote American Grown Flowers and I see some very positive things coming from their efforts.

I hope all this leads to American Flower Power and will educate the general public to buy LOCAL.

Rita Anders

Cuts of Color

Rita Anders Cuts of Color Contact at [email protected]