Monday, March 12, 2012

Specials for Our Season Opening!

We're opening this Saturday, March 17th!

Spring is next week and we are ready to bring some color into your life! Our first day of the season will be this Saturday and we want to share some of our favorite flowers with you.

We've got an choice selection of beautiful plants that are already in full bloom. And to celebrate our opening we're putting the best bloomers of the season on sale.
4" Pansies are 5 for $5.00
reg. $1.50

Bleeding Heart gallons are $5.95
reg. $7.95

Erysimum 'Mauve Bowles' are $4.95
reg. $5.95

Iceland Poppies 'Champagne Bubbles' are $4.75
reg. $5.95

Unadvertised Special!
Australian Mint Bush gallon $5.95
reg $7.95

We also have some exceptionally large and beautiful containers of the Australian mint bush. They are in 10" pots and we will be offering them for $15.95 instead of their regular $19.95.

This season we will be posting exclusive specials on this blog. You won't be able to find out about them anywhere else, so come back each week and see what we have to offer.

These specials are good from March 17th to March 26th.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beautiful July Plants

The summer's cool temperatures and showery weather have been kind to the plants that remain in nurseries. Without hot days and dry winds, plant quality remains very high. Our own retail store is still full of lovely blooming plants, and we are shipping top quality annual and perennial plants to our customers around the northwest.

Every summer, I end up looking at a lot of unsold regal geraniums. We used to call these Martha Washington geraniums, but the "regal" name is shorter for data entry, and also less fussy. Customers just don't seem to understand how durable and floriferous these plants are.... we sell most of them as presentation plants around Easter and Mothers' Day - which is a pity since they are one of the showiest and toughest of all the grandiflora bloomers for our area. I also think that many customers think they are shade plants - maybe because the flowers are so stupendous. In the shade, and if overwatered, regals just don't keep blooming like they do in full sun. I have to admit that I used to think that they were fragile pot plants, but our experience with summer performance has shown them to be amazing performers.

Here are some regal hanging baskets shipping today to customers in Seattle; they are 24" in diameter and completely covered with flowers and new bud clusters.

If you have a shady garden, Alstromerias are wonderful summer bloomers, and terrific cut flowers as well. The varieties that we grow don't have the long stems of florist alstromerias but are still nice for small arrangements.... the produce SOOO many flowers that a few stems son't be missed. Alstromeria is winter hardy in the Northwest, and has a long period of summer bloom. There are many colors available, but I am especially fond of this deep cerise red shade.

Another nice new plant for us is Campanula Uniform Blue. I personally love the whole Campanula family, and have grown hundreds of varieties of them in my 34 years as a perennial grower. This variety is substantial and compact, and has smothered itself with buds. I have read that there are more than 400 campanulas in cultivation... I thought that they were all from Europe and Asia, but I see in my Bailey's "Manual of Cultivated Plants" that some species originate in North America.

Stores were flooded with coleus this spring- who knows what happened to all those plants sold in April and early May when it was so very cold and wet. They really don't grow well until the nights warm up... and they are doing beautifully now. We also have a lot of Kong varieties grown from seed. You can confidently plant all these new varieties in full sun... that's what they love.

There are also rudbeckias and zinnias tucked in under the coleus for this shipment. They are heat-lovers that will perform beautifully from now until frost.

Here's a shot of Julio working on a shipment of Geranium-dracaena planters for a customer. They are way too big to ship economically, but customers love them and we don't want to dump them when everything winds down in a few weeks.

In the nursery, rooted poinsettia cuttings continue to arrive. Varieties that will be planted in 6" pots are planted directly; those for double-stick 8" plants will be shifted to their final container in a few weeks. Fall mums are all in their final pots, and next years' perennials from cuttings have been rooted and are growing on in 2" cells. We are doing a big field inventory right now to see what else we need to get underway from seed, and we are planning our 4" perennial crop right now. Busy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Keeping Your Fuchsia Basket Beautiful all Summer Long

Here in western Oregon and Washington we have nearly perfect conditions to enjoy beautiful fuchsia hanging baskets all summer long. They require a bit more effort than other shade hanging baskets such as impatiens, but nothing is more satisfying than keeping those flowers coming. Three factors influence how your fuchsia basket will perform during the summer months - fertilization, pinching, and location. And of course, fuchsias need lots of water.

Fuchsias are best under high shade of trees. Don't place your fuchsia basket too far back under an eave, and don't hang your fuchsia basket on the west side of your home unless there is shade from trees or porches from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Some direct sun in the morning is fine for most varieties. When we do get extremely hot weather over 90 degrees, look for a cool and shady place to place your fuchsia basket until the weather moderates. If strong winds come with hot weather, fuchsias are especially at risk. The best place for them then is in a shady, protected corner of the garden - maybe on old chair or inverted bucket.

Here's a nice, full basket of the fuchsia variety Lena. It's an old standard, and fairly winter hardy as well. For purposes of my blog - and horticulture in general - the word "hardy" specifically mean that frost will not kill or injure the plant. Hardy fuchsias planted in the ground may die back - and indeed should be cut back hard in late September - but their crown and roots will survive to bring flowers in the coming year.

I like to see layers of flowers and buds in a well grown fuchsia, like the Lena basket. I don't want it to be too far along when I purchase it or many flowers will be lost in transport.

This Lena basket has a full top, which means more flowers ahead.

Fertilizing fuchsias is very important. They are heavy feeders, and keeping new flowers coming requires continued growth of the plant. Here are some basics for feeding your fuchsia. Most importantly, never feed your fuchsia, or any other plant, if the plant shows any sign of wilt. Burning of roots and foliage can take place, and buds will drop. The best way to feed fuchsias is to feed at a low rate with each watering. I like to purchase a 2-1/2 gallon plastic bucket, and keep my fertilizer right in the bucket near my water tap. Each time I need to water my fuchsia, I fill the bucket of water and then add the quantity of fertilizer recommended for 1 gallon of water to my 2-1/2 gallon bucket. That gives me a nice 1/2 strength solution that is just right for every-watering use.

The kind of fertilizer you use isn't nearly as important that you use fertilizer regularly. If you are not seeing new buds, and if your fuchsia basket has a thinned and patchy look, it is probably hungry. Time release fertilizer, such as osmocote, can be used to supplement liquid feeing at the package rate. We use it on all our big baskets here at New Leaf Greenhouse.

Most fuchsia varieties have distinctive growth habits. Some are stiff, and others are weeping. My personal favorite is Jack Shahan, which you see here. It is a single rose pink self - both petals and corolla are the same color of rose - but it is prolific of bloom and makes a beautifully formed wide basket over the course of the summer.

Swingtime is one of the most popular fuchsias in cultivation. It is also an old variety, and makes a very nice large shrub at the Oregon Coast, where winters do not kill it back to the ground. It makes a wide and generous basket, but will be woody and stiff if not fertilized adequately. In the ground, it is both upright and hardy, in spite of its' popularity as a hanging basket plant.

Here's the lovely flower of Dark Eyes, which has a classic draping fuchsia basket form.

Now - the pinching. Flowers are only borne on new shoots, and to keep those shoots coming, branch tips must be regularly removed by pinching. All you have to do is pinch out the last 1/2" of the stem, taking out the last tiny pair of leaves. Each week, you need to pinch out 1/6 of all the tips around your basket, and especially on the top of your basket.

This is magic! Provided that your plant is adequately fertilized, watered, and protected from wind and heat, you will have a steady succession of flower buds on new growth all summer. Commercial growers of fuchsias know how to time their baskets for Mothers' Day - stop pinching late March. It takes just six weeks for fuchsia buds to form and flower after a pinch, and when you pinch 1/6th of your tips out each week, you are assuring new buds and flowers every week, all summer.

These Rocket Fire flowers are crazy big, nearly 5 inches across. Plants with monster flowers like Rocket Fire sometimes have fewer flowers than those with smaller, or single flowers, like Jack Shahan. One of my favorite fuchsias, Auntie Jinks, is the last to bloom but has hundreds of small purple and white flowers in gracefully layered foliage. Simply lovely!

Here's a photo of the fuchsia variety Blackie, every grower's worst nightmare. Customers love it, but it's nearly impossible to grow a shapely basket of this unruly creature. The corollas are an intense burgundy black, with magenta sepals and gorgeous long red stamens. But it seems that Blacky is always sparse, lopsided, and woody. Maybe next year I'll start them earlier, pinch them ruthlessly, and grow perfect Blackies at last....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Okay Plants, Into the Field with You!

This week has been rainy and dark, but today the sun broke through in the afternoon. We're just getting started moving all our perennial plants from their winter positions in unheated greenhouses to locations in our fields where they will grow until they are sold and shipped. Here are some nice 12" Rosemary just moved out to harden up a bit.

We are also taking stock of the consequences of last week's bitterly cold weather here in the Northwest. We had three nights with temperatures in the high teens - hard on crop in unheated space. At this time, it appears that the only significant damage was leaf burn on 2,000 10-inch Alstromeria that we are growing for a single customer. The Alstromeria plants are about 3 weeks from shipment, with buds just forming in the foliage. By the time that the plants are in bloom and ready to sell, the foliage will have grown past the damage. There may be some hand cleaning - leaf picking - to get them ready.

Here you can see a variety of crops, including the previously featured Bellis, out in the field. The space that they have occupied will be quickly filled with tray pansies, petunias, and other half-hardy annuals for other programs here at the nursery. We also grow all our early planters and many unheated baskets in our cold houses.

Here's a crew of guys moving out some very nice mimulus gallons. Mimulus is hardy to about 27 degrees, in our experience, and grows really well outdoors in the early spring. These will be in flower in about three weeks, and give some interesting color to the retail bench. We are also moving out stock and calendula at this time.

Inside the heated houses, geraniums are thriving. We grow them very, very dry to help prevent botrytis and other humidity related diseases. These are Calliope red geraniums grown in hanging baskets for an all-summer display. We do not like to ever grow geraniums under a basket crop, but the cold February delayed our usual moving schedule. The geraniums on the floor will soon be moved to other quarters to finish.

Here are some ivy geraniums in another customer's pot of choice. Ivy geraniums have been replaced by new vegetative annuals in many baskets - formerly, they were the only high-performing hanging basket for full sun. We still have market for them, although not for 4" Ivies, and love their clean foliage and clear, bright colors. On the floor are 1-gallon zonal geraniums... only a bedding plant grower would be pleased that our November and February cold has probably killed every geranium west of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.... it will be a good year for geraniums, especially if you are a grower.

Hanging here are our earliest crop of Ivy geranium hanging baskets. This will go to market this month - they're usually the first baskets with any color.

Just for fun, I am including this shot of some hardy annuals growing in jumbo trays for use in early combination pots. In the middle ground are several varieties of stock. I'm not sure how this happens, but the dark green plants will have beautiful double flowers, and the lighter green plants will have less attractive - but still fragrant - single flowers. Hmmmm.......

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow is a Four-Letter Word!

A late-winter storm is coming down from the Gulf of Alaska to give us one more blast of winter. Here at the nursery, that is a serious emergency. Forecasters are calling for several snow accumulations of 3-4 inches each over a two day period, and then two nights of intense cold. The snow is an inconvenience, but the 18 degree nights that are predicted are a serious problem for us here.

We have lots of perennial plants in bloom at the nursery, and their foliage and flowers could be severely damaged by those temperatures. We also have many, many crops that we would have moved outside by now - all our gallon perennials except the tenderest, like salvias and hebes. We normally would have our 4" perennials in the field by now, or have their moving well underway.

Because of the record cold temperatures we have experienced in the past few years, we grew our 4" perennials in a different manner this year. Usually, we sow them in 288 cells from July to October, depending on seedling size and vigor, and then plant them to their finished containers in unheated houses in November. This year, we sowed them in 105 cells - a substantially larger unit - and kept them in houses that could be heated if necessary until after the first of the year. All were planted in their final containers in January and early February, and there was room to put them back in houses that could be heated. Our customers' advertising schedules are the drivers here - not the needs of consumers.

Many perennials that are in unheated houses are at risk from the coming cold temperatures. We have covered them with a non-woven frost protection cloth, which will stay in place until the weather changes. They are growing in an unheated coldframe - usually perfect for winter protection of perennials, and spring production of cold-conditioned annuals. 18 degrees would be nothing at all in many parts of the United States - it's 10 degrees in Spokane as I write - but the demand for marginally hardy plants in the Pacific Northwest has influence what we grow. And, we need to have really good perennials early in the season to keep our place in the market.

Here are some steel hoop houses that have 2x4 lumber crutches in place t0 reinforce their bows and ridge. All of our steel houses have had some damage in the past from snow load - of course, they are inexpensive structures that would have no utility whatsoever in harsher climates.

When we had our crazy snowstorm a few years ago, with 16" of snow over several days, we actually removed the polyethylene from most of our unheated greenhouses. We ended up cutting the polyethylene from 13 coldframes to save the structures. It was not extremely cold during that weather event, and all that snow was a great insulator for the crop. There is actually a nursery in the Skagit Valley that owns a snow-making machine - the kind that ski resorts use to supplement low snowfalls - that they use to cover their crops with snow in advance of Arctic air masses and low temperatures.

Guys have come into work today to help with snow removal. These unheated houses can easily carry the snow that is on them now, but we are concerned about the possibility of more accumulation. We've had situations in the past where a few inches of snow were on greenhouses roofs, and then freezing rain occurred. The snow on the roofs took up the water like a giant sponge, multiplying the weight, and then more snow fell. Nasty! That was the first year we ever cut poly to save greenhouses.

Only Chi and all the little kids that get to stay home from school really like snow here in western Oregon. For nursery operators, it means many hours of cold, wet work. And the 18 degrees? Months and months of careful cultivation can be destroyed over night. With all our precautions, temperatures in the unheated houses, under the thermal blankets, should go no lower than 25 degrees, and we will probably have modest damage to our crops if any.

Let's just hope that we'll have a beautiful spring this year, and that it starts next week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First Perennials are Starting To Flower

Today is a beautiful day here in western Oregon, and I had to get out of the office and poke around in the greenhouses. I even whacked on my roses a bit, and moved (with help!) a couple of pretty good sized bamboo plants that weren't in the best spots.

There are a few crops blooming up in the cold houses, the cheeriest of which are these bellis. They are in gallon pots, and ready to go to market. Bellis is a plant that has value in the earliest days of spring, but may not have much presence in the garden in warmer months. I think it should be treated like a hardy annual or biennial; enjoyed in its' moment and then removed to make way for summer flowering plants. These plants haven't had a bit of heat this winter, and will bloom for another six weeks at least. Bellis is great in early season pots with pansies and daffodils.

Here are some perennial scabiosas that are looking very nice. You have to look closely to see their plump, beautiful buds. They are a good perennial for a small scale garden... but for flower beauty I prefer the annual scabiosas. My Mom used to raise them for cutting, and we always have a few in jumbo trays at New Leaf in the spring, hoping that our customers will remember their wonderful flowers and ask for them. They have long, wiry stems, and are great cut flowers. As a child, I especially loved the black annual scabiosa with white stamens - its' common name is "Pincushion Plant."

Erysimum Bowles Mauve is a great perennial plant in every way, and one of the first to come into color in spring in western Oregon and Washington. Unlike bellis and the scabiosa depicted above, erysimum is a plant that has real presence in the garden and a long period of bloom... usually February through July. The flower stems, or spikes, continue to elongate and new flower buds are created as they grow. Plants will become quite woody, and live for many years. Plants I've planted typically mature at about 36" wide and 30" tall, and provide beautiful deep lavender flowers in abundance. It's a crucifer, a member of the cabbage family, and like all its' cousins it likes rich soil, sun, even moisture, and cool temperatures.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making Standard Fuchsias, Getting Started....

Every couple of years, we make some standard fuchsias here at New Leaf Greenhouse. It takes about 9 months to make a nice standard, or tree fuchsia, and it's lots of fun. We like to offer them in our retail store, and independent garden centers buy them. We don't represent them as being suitable for planting in the ground here in the Northwest - they are a strictly a container plant that needs heat in the winter to live over, even if they are hardy varieties like June Bride. That's the variety that is depicted in the image.

We start with a clean, vigorous tip cutting in late May or June. Once rooted, the cutting is planted in a 4" pot. Some growers treat the cutting with gibberelic acid to promote stem elongation, but we have never found that to be necessary. After the cutting has gotten hold of the soil, and has begun to grow, we carefully pinch off each shoot that arises in a leaf axil. I prefer to cut the shoot off leaving about a 3/16" stub. If the shoot is torn away, there will be a proliferation of shoots from that point as the wound heals.

As many of you have probably observed, fuchsia are quite unique in their ability to generate bud after bud in their leaf axils. Most plants, geraniums in particular, have only one bud in each leaf axil. This ability generate shoot after shoot is one of the reasons that fuchsias are so much fun to grow in hanging baskets. Properly fed, they will grow and bloom beautifully on all those new shoots, generally about six weeks following a pinch.

The plant is tied very loosely to the support with green vinyl plant tie material. Do not use wire ties.

The most important part of raising standard fuchsia is this - never remove the leaves that come directly out of the stem. If those leaves are removed when the shoots are trimmed away, the stem - the future trunk - will not grow straight and strong, and the plant will not have enough vigor to make a good standard. You can see that the young standard fuchsia in the picture has a number of leaves up the stalk. These leaves often become large and leathery. We leave them on the plant until well after the stalk has reached the top of it's stake - about 48" tall from ground level - and the shaping of the head has begun.

For commercial production, the container used for the standard fuchsia is very important. This is the container configuration that we have worked out over the years here at New Leaf Greenhouse. We like a square container to start with. They are less "tippy" than many round pots. We cut a 2"x 2" stick of pressure treated lumber to the exact width of the pot. Then, we drill a hole in the 2"x 2" that will accommodate a piece of 1/2" EMT conduit. The conduit threaded through the 2"x 2" and a long screw is passed through it to secure it. Then, the 2"x 2" is screwed to the sides of the pot, using finish washers on the outside to join to the plastic pot in a stronger fashion.

This container protects the standard if it falls over, and the standard can be moved easily by grasping the conduit. We have had standard fuchsias at New Leaf Greenhouse that have lived for many years, one attaining a trunk diameter of more than 2". Using a plastic pot, pressure treated lumber, and an aluminum support ensure that the pot will last as long as the tree fuchsia lives.

Can a standard fuchsia live for years in it's original container? Yes... providing that it is fed properly. And if you don't have a greenhouse, the fuchsia will have the have the right place to overwinter. Perhaps I'll do a post soon about winter care of fuchsias, and standard fuchsias in particular.