Thursday, June 25, 2009

As Goes Ohio!

So goes the nursery. Well, as goes Ohio Belle that is. This lovely sport of New Dawn is a rose we have not offered in probably four years. You see, we simply never got around to taking cuttings of it, and hundreds of other roses in our collection. I was chasing my own tail so much I simply forgot to make sure these gems were in our catalogue year in and year out.

Michael and I were taking cuttings from the old Mother Block today when Michael mentioned he had one more piece of burlap left to wrap the cuttings in. I peered under a giant Rose Marie Viaud and lo and behold, Ohio Belle. Two nice canes - holding on for dear life. We took cuttings and as I write they are now in the mister.

Not a big thing but a good harbinger of things to come.

Last year at this time we had barely started taking cuttings. The overworked staff of one, Trish, plus me were too busy with shipping to get to them. Michael came on board around this time last year and we really didn’t get started on cuttings until the end of June.

As I write we have already taken close to 20,000 cuttings closing in on 500 different varieties of roses. Some gems we have not offered in quite a while from old garden to brand new.

You see, a nursery hits a point where you get on a kind of cruise control when it comes to propagating. I really feel after almost three years we’re back to that point. Michael is settled in beautifully, Trish is back to her beloved lists of Mother Plants and me? I’m riding this cruise control all the way to Ohio and beyond baby!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sittin in Limbo

We are waiting for the property to sell. And waiting and waiting and waiting. We are at the point where we can’t move forward with our future until it does. You see, I will be using the equity from the sale to prep and set up the new property where our greenhouses, Rosarium and production facilities will go. This is a separate area from the new retail site. We are already over there.

The bank situation left us with little in reserve so we pretty much live and pay our bills off sales of the roses; something the tanking economy has made a bit more difficult to weather. It’s also making the property harder to sell. The equity from the property sale will not only be our means of setting up the new place but also our cash cushion.

Welcome to being a small business in the first part of 2009!

I’ve been told a few times to possibly find an investor – not an idea I’m against. But finding an investor for a rose nursery is harder than the old needle in a haystack cliché. A nursery like ours is a labor of love. While I’m sure investors want to be loved, I doubt a portion of the love that goes into a place like ours is considered a good return. Then again in this day and age it’s probably a better one than most!

I’m not complaining mind you. I’d still rather do what this than anything else in the world. As I always say, “it could be worse. I could have a job”.

So we are going to continue to move forward and spread some serious love into our customer’s gardens. We have it in spades.

Want some?

Know anyone who wants to buy twenty great acres in the upstate with lots of love in it?

Phone lines are open!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Move With A Touch So Light.

"You've got to hold it right feel the distance to the ground
Move with a touch so light until it's rhythm you have found
Then you'll know what I know"

Thus is the chorus of one of my favourite Dougie Maclean songs - The Scythe Song. He sings the tale of learning to work a Scythe from an elder. The subtext to me has always been learn from those who came before you. The second part is about patience. If you try to force or muscle, it won't work. Instead just relax, find it's rhythm and "then you'll know what I know".

I feel the same way when I am lucky enough to "sit at the feet" of some great rose folk and drink in what they say.

One of the greatest days of my rose life was one spent alone with Ralph Moore at his nursery in California. Ralph at 90 plus ran me into the ground roaring through his greenhouses to see what he was up to. But I remember something he said when the conversation turned to how he responded when people asked when he was going to retire.

"I have new seedlings this year that will take at least seven years to evaluate so how can I retire now. I'll have to wait at least seven more years." Not an exact quote but I think you gather the sentiment. Mr. Moore spent a good part of the day showing me how to bud this way or that way and towards the end I begin to find a little of the ryhtym that flew deftly from his fingers.

As I cast my rose history mind's eye back over what the late Jack Harkness called "The Makers of Heavenly Roses", I think how lucky those of us in the rose nursery business are to be the caretakers of the work of the masters. From Beales to Vibert and everyone in between we are the caretakers of centuries of experience, wisdom and gift.

Mr. Moore once told me he wanted to make sure everyone knew what he knew about rose breeding so someone could pick up where he left off instead of starting over again.

It is our responsiblity to use it wisely and carry it on in their name. And to stop and smell the roses along the way.

And thusly rhytms are found, we will know what they know, and if we are lucky carry it forward.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Fresh Wind In The Rose Garden

"I don't want to try growing roses because they are fussy and need a lot of spraying"

Boy, if I had a dime for every time I heard that at a garden show I'd be independently wealthy. For years and years I felt we were swimming against the tide by trying to tell people that Garden Roses were different from Exhibition/Florist Roses and in fact are quite easy to care for.

Fast forward to last weekend. I was at the North Carolina Arboretum speaking at a rose event organized by the Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society. They do a rose exhibition for the general public every year there. Members bring roses and they are set out in vases on tables, but it is not a rose show with judging etc. Instead the idea is to showcase the diversity of The Rose with blooms cut straight from their garden. They do a great job also with talks and a question and answer table. I did my talk "Roses Are Plants Too" and then stuck around for a few hours to answer questions.

For the first time I can remember, everyone from the general public I spoke to was open to trying Garden Roses and actually knew what they were. Personally I think the rose Knockout has a lot to do with this changing of minds. I suspect the Garden Forums, articles on easier care roses and even TV programs are also driving that effort.

Whatever the cause it was great to spend a beautiful sunny day in the mountains of North Carolina, talking roses and not feeling like the odd man out.

"I'd love to try some other garden roses because they are among the best plants in my garden" is what I hear now. And I love it! And then sell them a rose of course!