Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We're bustin out of this joint.


A greenhouse at an independent rose nursery in upstate South Carolina. Rose plants are everywhere in their pots on tables.


A tray of rambling roses, slightly older and slightly wiser, they know the drill.

Rose 1 "I hates to tell you dis but I tink we gotta move"

Rose 2 "On no, why, I like it here. We all grew up together on this table."

Rose 1 "I hears through the grapevine there are some new folks moving over from the propagation house. Youngsters, babies, newly rooted fellas, lots of them, different kinds of roses and they need some space"

Rose 2 "But where will we go!?"

Rose 3 "By jove, if we are fortunate we will be purchased by a kind, caring gardener who will bring us into their home, plant us, take care of us and take photos of us to post on those forums for years to come."

Rose 1 "We all hopes for dat but if don't happen don't youse worry. The folks around here ain't throwing us on the compost heap. They've set up a new pad in the adults only greenhouse and we're moving up there until someone buys us."

Rose 3 "Really. More room, more new roses. Does this possibly mean the kind people who work at this establishment are feeling more positive about the future and that people want more choices in their rose buying?

Over to you!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Size Does Matter

The ongoing move to our new retail site is letting me know I've been living in a rose bubble these past few years. We are so used to dealing with rose people and passionate gardeners who are familiar with mail order plants being smaller, that I forgot what the general public wants when they drive up to a garden center.

They want a large one.

As large as possible.

And they want it NOW!

And even in this economy they are willing to pay a higher price.

Case in point.

We had just transplanted some Mons. Tillier roses from their smaller liner pots that we ship in, into two gallon pots for the retail area. Some good potting soil, nice organic fertilizer, patience and Mother Nature means in about 4-6 weeks that rose will be much bigger and indeed a more attractive plant to sell.

A customer walked in just a few days after we did this and wanted those larger pots. Trish told the person they had just been transplanted and were in fact the same size as the smaller ones, which were less money. Nope, the person insisted, I want the larger ones. Trish said that would be fine just leave them in the pots for a few months. Our motto is give them honest information and then give them the rose they want.

The customer went off happily with three great, newly transplanted, roses and we learned something.

Better to sell the same plant for $22.95 in a larger pot than $15.95 in a smaller pot.

You see, size does matter. To our bottom line!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Congratulations! It's A Bouncing Baby Rose!

We've been potting up roses all week and now the propagation house is rapidly filling up with baby roses.

And all kinds of roses including many we have not seen in years. Duke of York (left), Rosenstadt Zwiebruken (right), Floral Fairy Tale (below left), Crepescule (below right); the list goes on and on.

We are moving through the plants in the ground taking cuttings at a rapid pace. We want to make sure we have new plants of as many of our roses as possible. The side benefit is that it is building our inventory and who this is going to really make happy are our customers.

Our selections of roses dropped over the last two years but this year we seem to heading back in the right direction. And that is to offer all kinds of great roses that are hard to find everywhere else. By the looks of the propagation house we are on the right track!

This is a part of the job I love. Potting up young plants, watching them grow and seeing old friends come around again. I'm a lucky man.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Go or Stay?

This is the time of year when we decide which of the older plants should be held over one more season and which ones should go. Not to the compost heap but into the big 50% off sale we sometimes hold at the nursery at the end of the season. The hope is to find them a good home.

Trish and I go through each variety checking to see how many we have left in stock. Then we decide if we have more than we might need for fall shipping. The logic behind these large, important business decisions is convoluted to say the least.

“Well, I’ll begin, “I think we should hang to Bermuda’s Kathleen because it does great in warm climates and they’ll start ordering in October for winter planting so they shouldn’t go into the sale.”

That one gets by Trish. Most of the time she’ll agree with me but every now and then;

“We have a fair amount of Himmelsauge left and since it’s a plant more for up north and folks up there generally plant in early spring I don’t see them ordering them this fall. Plus it’s a spring bloomer and they really don’t sell well all over the country so we probably have enough for folks up north when they do order in spring”

Trish will counter with, “I seem to be shipping at least a few every week.”

That trumps all my arguments. You see I know what I like but since Trish does all the order processing and talks to the customers, I am not as up to speed on what’s actually selling in what numbers.

Oh sure, Quick Books can give me all kinds of nifty sales figures, trends and pie charts galore in a million colors, but it is never the same as talking and emailing with the customers on a daily basis and feeling what is in demand.

So luckily for the roses the last word at our nursery on if they stay or go is not in the hands of a computer. It’s in the hands of a rose lover with her ear tuned to other rose lovers – and that is as it should be.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Roots of Progress

There are some roses that are just hard to root. You try and you try and you try and every year you wind up staring at trays of dead cuttings. But as I’ve said earlier I’m Dutch and stubborn and so approach it with the attitude that we are just going about it the wrong way.

Two in particular are Stanwell Perpetual (left) and Secret Garden Musk Climber (right). For years I’ve tried over and over to root plants because they are great roses that need to be in commerce.

Enter Michael Hayes. He came to us part time last year and since he graduated from the Horticultural Program at Spartanburg Tech a few months ago, now full time. He’s fine tuned our propagation procedures and re-installed discipline in how they are taken, processed and handled. We had gotten a little sloppy because we were stretched so thin trying to keep up.

I was entering new cuttings in the database where we track such things and I noticed some cuttings of Stanwell were taken about 9 days ago. So what the heck why not see how they are doing? While I know a watched cutting never roots I couldn’t resist.

Viola!! Roots on Stanwell! And Secret Garden Musk Climbers in pots all over the place. It’s going to be a good year!