Monday, April 11, 2011

Colocasia Diamond Head and Why Your Life is Incomplete Without It

While it's possible that I received the single greatest shipment of plugs ever, my gut's tellin me otherwise.  This plant is a stud.  Possibly even the Elephant Eared equivalent to Ensete.  Compared to the 6 other varieties that I've planted this season- it's way out in the lead for size, vigor, and overall appearance.  This is truly a "Sells Itself" variety.  Naturally, we're sold out.  I'm working on that.  You need this plant.  Several of them.  If you're a buyer for a garden center - you need dozens.  They're that hot. Just be prepared to forget every other dark leaved elephant ear out there, cuz it's over.  The game has changed...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Book Review!?

Yeah.  As it turns out, I read a little bit.  It's nothing that I try to make a habit of - but occasionally the mood strikes me and I allow myself to get sucked into a story.  Due to the glorious invention of Facebook, I reconnected with one of the most influential people in my Hort career - Tony Bertauski.  The guy taught me how to sprig a USGA spec green and ID Cercospera under a compound scope.  Not to mention, hooked me up with some of the best extra credit questions you'll ever hear about on a test. I was already aware of his publishing achievements in the field of academia (If you're into landscape design, click here), but was pretty astonished to learn that he'd also cranked out an entire sci-fi trilogy as well.  It starts with The Discovery of Socket Greeny.  Books 2 and 3 are The Training of Socket Greeny, and The Legend of Socket Greeny.

Seeing as how I'm a Droid guy, and the Kindle app is free - I figured I'd check it out.  Turns out, I loved it.  Tony's writing style is incredibly engaging - I basically stopped reading only to sleep and work, and even read some on my lunch breaks.  While the story is filed under Young Adult Fiction - I could also make a pretty serious argument that the original Star Wars could be too.  In other words - don't let the genre scare you off - it's epic.

I'm not going to do a full on synopsis - there's about 20 of them here on Amazon.  If you're into Sci-Fi stuff, video games, Buddhism, or even stories occasionally occurring in a futuristic Charleston, SC - then just trust me and get it.  It's badass.  Oh yeah - the Kindle edition is actually Free Right Now!  Click here to go to aforementioned free download page. The following two stories were read succinctly after finishing the first.  

Tony's a pretty avid user of Blogger as well - check out his page here.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Florida House

It would appear that our decision to stop having certain warmer crops produced off site at a facility in Florida is paying off.  Bananas are huge, Mandevilla are the best that I've seen, and our Colocasia are progressing nicely. Winning!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Hotness

I'm slowly accepting the reality that the days of sitting in front of my laptop with nothing to do but expound on cool plants are over.  You don't monitor sales figures and potting rates with a 536 line item program on a daily basis and still consider time as an ally.  Thus, I'm relegating myself to posts nearly short enough for Twitter for at least the next several months...  Needless to say, we're up to our necks in 5" Temperennial production - and things are going perfect so far.  Assuming an act of God doesn't smite our production houses from the earth, expect the greatest season yet from this program.  Busy, but Stoked to be here!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Joys of Forcing Perennials

It's been awhile!  Gotta get back in the habit.  Holidays, blizzards, and a general lack of enthusiasm for plants lately have kept me a bit on the quiet side.  Both at work, and here as well.  The enthusiasm comes in waves, I've noticed.  It's hard to be amped about one thing at all times. Regardless - while surveying our propagation house with our trade show plants this week I felt the spark light up again.  We've been receiving Temperennial URC's hot and heavy for the past several weeks - and the farm (myself included) is already feeling different. 

Heuchera 'Guardian Angel' - I had
 to do a few of my favorites...
My motivation for trade show plants is simple.  I want my company to stand out from the rest of the endless booths, filled with spring blooming perennials and annuals.  With only a few exceptions - the 1000's of booths feature plants that really require no real skill in growing to something presentable.  Heuchera?  Really?  All you have to do is put them somewhere warm and they're Show Quality in a month.  I personally zone out big time by my second hour on the floor.  Literally - it's hard for me to pay attention after looking at the same thing over and over again.  

Since we're considered to be pro's, I took it into my own hands to see that we actually looked like it. Even if just for myself - I'm still not convinced anyone else will notice...

The setup. Post MANTS tradeshow.
My request for some real forcing lights this past fall was finally granted - we installed a pair of 1000w High Pressure Sodium grow lamps over one of our bottom heated prop benches.  These are the only real choice in providing not only true quality of light, but also the quantity of light required for replicating true plant growth.  There's some promising new work being done with LED's, and I'm all for it as they are nearly free to operate, but I'm not in the mood to trial some new tech - I want guaranteed results...

I figured since we have so many good intro's in the Coreopsis genus, and Echinacea are so popular - I'd focus on those.  Coreopsis are generally considered to be Long Day plants.  This is a bit of a misnomer - they are actually Short Night plants (I think, I stink at Botany).  The easiest way to trigger this flowering mechanism is simply to interrupt the night with a 4 hr period of lighting, referred to as Night Interruption.  There are numerous other things that can effect bud initiation - heat, node count (how much the plant has grown), etc.  Regardless - what we presented at MANTS, and especially what we're presenting at NE Grows, will be far different from any other year that I've been with Sunny Border.  Here's what I'm most excited about.

Coreopsis 'Galaxy'
I have yet to be won over by C. 'Galaxy' - until now...  The show plants performed extremely well on the bench and we will have many Show Quality specimens in full bloom up in Boston.  It's shorter than many of the earlier intro's in the Big Bang series - and is the only to sport a double flower.  Like most of the varieties that were forced - what I've learned under the lights is really going to improve what I do out in the nursery.

Coreopsis 'Star Cluster'

Another one that worked out extremely well that I wasn't extremely hot on to begin with is Coreopsis 'Cosmic Eye'.  This one went from "What the heck am I doing wrong" to "OMG - I can't wait to pot these again in the spring" over the course of about a month.  It's now a favorite.  It's another one that's relatively small compared to 'Full Moon' and 'Redshift' - and the color is unrivaled in hardy Coreopsis.

Coreopsis 'Full Moon'

I figured I'd give the first Big Bang intro a run for it as well - Coreopsis 'Full Moon'.  We unfortunately won't have a ton in bloom - but expect one big one in Boston that will be taking center stage.

Flowering Hosta 'Guacamole'!!

The by-product of having a bench that has Long Day flowering requirements and a little extra space, is getting to scour the nursery for other plants that I can trick into bloom with the same conditions.  Tried some Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford' - Fail.  Amazing foliage - but no buds, nothing.  Still going for the foliage, but disappointing nonetheless.  Also tried a few other things, with better results.

Echinacea 'Fatal Attraction'

Also scored big on Echinacea - while they will flower under any light condition (they need 24 hrs continuous light to be completely vegetative), they loved the high output of the HPS system and actually look exactly like they should in late June/ early July.  Our big 2 gallon 'Fatal Attraction' and 'Katie Saul' look more like shrubs than puny little trade show plants.  I'm expecting lots of people to freak out when they see these big studs in the booth.  While the Summer Sky are just pushing out petals now - the Fatal Attraction are still a little tight.  Still - this is my favorite look on this plant.  The bud coloration is absolutely evil looking for a cone-flower, and the lights got them to truly replicate their dark stem color as well.

Lavendula 'Provence'
I figured Lavender would also be worth a go.  I've yet to see one of those in bloom at a show.  Unfortunately, you won't in our booth this year either.  Still, the plan for Lavender Forcing 2.0 has already been corrected, and I have big hopes for next year.  Regardless - expect to see some mammoth, shrubby specimens, just vegetative unfortunately...

Tiarella 'Timbuktu'
Of course there will be the usual fare of Heuchera and Tiarella.  We even have some of the nicest specimens of Polemonium 'Touch of Class' and Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine' that I've ever seen.  While these don't require the special lights, they certainly helped with developing the foliar color.  Tiarella 'Timbuktu' especially - as the center blotch is nearly completely black.

This, like everything else in this business, has been a huge learning process.  Seeing all the rules on paper and taking notes in seminars only gets you so far.  The results when you set the timer up and put em in there are always going to be different from what you were expecting. Regardless - notes are taken, tons of dated photos saved, plans for improvement next year are stored away. Now I can't wait to show up in Boston on Wednesday, and see if there actually is a bright spot in the sea of Heuchera and blooming Catawba Rhodies, even if I'm the only one that notices...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Blizzard Blog

So it's looking like our first good storm of the year is gonna be a real winner. Stoked!! I was looking out the front window, and I noticed this Blue Princess Holly I planted about two years ago. I've tried a few things in the spot that have all failed miserably - either due to the generally crappy soil that my builder left me with, or perhaps due to the hot light reflected down from my western facing windows. Regardless - this bombproof New England staple has really taken to the spot, even though I'm not the biggest fan of Blue Holly. It was a throw away from a CNLA Summer Field Day a few years back - abandoned in the vacated booth of a local rewholesaler. While they're a bit trite for my taste, I figured I couldn't turn down a free 5-gallon shrub. With some careful rejuvenatory pruning - I've finally gotten it growing properly. It's on track to fill the 6'x6' space that I've got alloted for it in a couple of years, and should anchor a considerable portion of my foundation garden. This vision of it covered with the light dusting of snow is my favorite thus far. Common in the Northeast or not, after seeing the snow highlighted by the spiky green margins, I'm glad I chose to throw it in my car!