Wow what a spring! The crazy weather this year broke records and so did our farm. We managed to out sell previous years by almost double due to mostly the weather. Rain came when it was needed and lasting cool temps into May were so wonderful. Kind of got a taste of what northern growers experience.
Last fall I purchased an Earthway seeder and had lots of fun planting many rows of larkspur. Timely rains and a cold winter sure helped. I had so much larkspur and it grew so tall and beautiful thanks to advice from a friend, Charles Hendrick of Yuri Hana Flower Farm in South Carolina. He told me to chill the seed in the fridge for a couple of weeks and then take it out and pat it dry, place it in the Earthway seeder and get to planting. I went down and up the row six times in a four-foot row in November and just left it alone. It sprouted and grew into tall beautiful plants. There was so much of it that we just started cutting off at the ground and bunching into 10-stem bunches. My favorite colors were the white, purple and blue of the Qis and Sublime Series.
In January I was trying to get a jump start on sunflowers, as I wanted some for early bouquets. I planted two seeds into a 4” pot and planted several trays of pots every week. This worked great in a minimally heated greenhouse. I had the thermostat set on 34 just to keep everything from freezing. The sunflowers were perfect for bouquets. As early as the last week of February I planted some outside thinking winter was almost over and boy was I wrong. They were sprouted when the sleet storm arrived, but luckily I covered them with a double row of row cover; they made it and I had the earliest ever sunflowers. I’ve found that sunflowers will take the cold pretty good as long as they are used to it. Last fall we went through several frosts and it didn’t get them till we had a hard freeze. In March I started direct seeding sunflowers with the Earthway seeder by using the plate that is for Swiss chard and beets, and taping shut every other hole. It still puts out a few more seeds than I want but I use the ones that are planted too close together for bouquets and straight bunch all the rest.
It may seem early, but it’s already past the time to order your ranunculus and anemone bulbs for this fall’s planting .You can still put your orders in but optimum time to order them is as soon as you are done with the past season. This fall I will be adding a new variety of ranunculus to my flower list. It’s the Elegance Series, available from Onings Holland. Elegance is like La Belle from seed production, but with newer varieties and fewer viruses. Henk Onings of Onings Holland says that the Elegance, compared to La Belle are just a bit better, larger size flower, better yield, taller and stronger and straight stems and brighter fresher assortment of colors. The Italian varieties—like Elegance—get better prices on the Dutch auction.
They will be offered in 100 packs, minimum 600 bulbs per order to specialty cut flower growers by Onings Holland. The Italian ranunculus grow rather tall and are very easy to grow according to Onings. Because these can handle warmer temperatures fairly well, some of the Californian growers are growing them year around.
Last year when Joe Schmitt shared his growing schedule, I noticed an interesting plant on it called quinoa. It comes in burgundy and green varieties. I tried both and especially loved the burgundy. It grew to be about three feet tall, and has seed pods that I describe as a tiny eucalyptus plant. It looks cool paired with sunflowers, zinnias, and lily bouquets.
Two years ago when I grew achillea ‘Summer Berries’ and ‘Cerise Queen’, I’d bring a few bunches into the store with my deliveries. Buyers begged me for more, floral designers and customers love them, so this year I planted more. I sell it in 10-stem bunches for 5.00 to my store account. It doesn’t seem like much in a bunch but it sells quickly. I’ve found that if you are able to straight bunch flowers for your customers, you will make more profit than making bouquets because if you are like me, you add more to your bouquet just because you think it needs more and it cuts into your profits.
Our process is to pick out the best and make straight bunches and then use the rest to make bouquets.
The ASCFG Bulletin Board and Community Network are great places to share your successes and failures because it helps us all to share flowers that have worked or not. Sometimes it’s just a step you are not doing right and when you share, someone will know the answer and then everyone benefits from their ASCFG membership. Check the ASCFG web page for the National Conference schedule and other important information about the October meeting.
Photo 1: Burgundy Quinoa
Photo 2: Achillea ‘Summer Berries’ and ‘Cerise Queen’