Cutflower Growers Journal May 31 - June 5

flowerfarmerMay 31, 2005

It's Tuesday and no Journal. It's Tuesday and I am still weeding the lisianthus. But, good news. It's May 31; and, there are buds on the Karma dahlias. We're gonna be rich!!

For those of you who post in the journal, I was just curious: Is growing cutflowers a lifestyle first, and then a business? Or do you consider it a business? For me it is a lifestyle. If otherwise, most likely I would have continued on my chosen career path. But, if it is a lifestyle, one pretty much deals with whatever comes. If it is a business first, then we are dealing with crop yield. For instance, 800 Karma dahlia plants times 16 stems times $1 per stem (this is an estimate because I don't know selling price yet) equals $12,800. I'm not that pragmatic. I'm sticking with lifestyle first.

Just this morning we made a management decision: no special orders this year. It takes away the independence we have as flower growers. It's a stress level we also don't want to deal with any longer.

Enjoy your moments in the sun. I will continue wearing sunscreen even though I recently read an article that stated we were doing more harm than good because the sun's rays (according to some obscure study) are now good for us.

Blue eyed, fair skin people cannot take a chance.........

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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

I don't wear sunscreen (I'm allergic to most of them and dislike how they feel) but I DO wear a huge-rimmed hat with a flap that covers my neck, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants and socks under my Tevas. I have the blue eyes too, but redhead skin, which is skin cancer waiting to happen.

It gets hot, but I have an unconventional way of staying cool. Once I start feeling too hot, I turn the hose on myself, fully clothed, really saturate me, my clothes and hair completely. The cold water makes me squeal when it goes down my back, but it's completely worth it. The evaporation from my clothes keeps me cool until it's all evaporated. Then I repeat it, if needed. If I'm working on my knees, I pick up all kinds of dirt, since dirt sticks better to wet clothes than dry, but it gives me a way to work through the heat. And there is always the washing machine for the dirty clothes.

I'd better get going. We are expecting thunderstorms along with their torrential rain today and I want to mow my aisles before they get too wet to mow. The weeds are growing so fast, I swear I can see them grow. The penny cress (a wild mustard) that is trying to drown my glads went from small rosettes to a foot tall in a week. We had a very wet week followed by a warm and dry one, resulting in unbelievable growth of EVERYTHING. This week is supposed to be cold and rainy again, starting today. Highs have been in the 70's with lots of sun, but for this week it should go down into the 50's and be rainy again. A high of 48 is forecast for one day. Good ol' North Idaho weather!


    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 10:54AM
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Noni Morrison

Jeanne, your North Idaho weather is stretching clear to Seattle, or vice versa. My fibro-body is having a hard time with the weather changes.

I agree with what both of you just said...I cool off the same way you do, Jeanne! And yes, Growing cuts is definitely a "lifestyle" for me. Why else would I suffer like this! Certainly not the money,, the money is just nice to have when needed. I don;t think anyone coul dpay me enough to do what I do, so glad it does't matter so much! OF course, I worlk on a muc smaller scale then most of you.

I have yet to plant a sunflowre and my zinnia seedlings that were so beautiful fried in the greenhouse when it was 90 degrees and I just couldn't work fast enough (Because I got sick after 5 minutes out in the heat and had to go lay down) This morning we are back down to 52 drizzly degrees. I stil neeed to clear my sunflower growing area of tall grass and discouraging I Have trouble starting!
OHHHHHHHHH For a nice flat field and a tractor! (I wouldn't have the market for those numbers of flowers but it would sure make planting time easier!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 11:40AM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Flowerfarmer - a good question! Right now its the pursuit of a lifestyle I'd like to have! I have a fulltime "corporate" job, that is tough to walkaway from at the moment. My husband has been the farmer - an orchardist - and he and his brother took the entire 127 acres out last year, so they're still "cleaning it up" and figuring out what to do with the farmland - no we're not subdividing and developing it! So, fortunately, he can help me grow the flower business literally! At some point we'd like to switch roles! Just haven't got to that point yet.

But, we did get a ton done over the weekend, tihonia, snaps, yellow cosmos, more larkspur, ageratum, orange echinacea, silene, and yarrow plugs planted. But, the highlight was my new, temporary helpers...3 young men from another orchardist...boy, they got a ton of weeding done, planted 6 rows of dahlias (in trenches - like another post - their idea not mine, but it worked, because they weeded the beds first and as they planted!), new newspaper and cardboard and chips around my peonies, then more weeding and hopefully spreading of compost!

But, I didn't get my zinnias or more suns planted...but I will! Have a great week!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 8:23PM
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Yes, LizaLily, I am serious. I am coming to live in your garden. My only requirement is a comfy lounge chair and lots of ice tea. Don't plan on putting me to work though. I would have posted this on the photo thread; but, that thing takes forever for us people with dial up service.

Wendy, I forgot to start seed for Silene :( I think I will still do this though for next year. The field was so hot today it was like the beach. They did, however, finally finish putting in the new commercial well. Now we can irrigate. And, we must.

Market tomorrow. The sun is supposed to shine for a change on Thursday. It could possibly be a good day....

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 10:31PM
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Noni Morrison

I have the lounge chair and I can make iced tea...come on over, FLowerfarmer!

I put in a good days work for this old bod today. My old bulb beds (3 yrs ago) have grown grass about 5' tall on them. I cleaned the first one and planted 500 border glads in it...all done with planting glads Yaaaaaaaahoooooooooooooo! They are the only crop I am using an insecticide on...some systemic rose and flower care, in hopes of scaring away the bad little thrips! I hope they don't all bloom at once! But I didn't want to wait any later to get them in. THese were all from Costco...mixed bags of 70 borderglads. Whatever colors they are should be useful. I hope to get another bed done tomorrow...there are 3 of these first bulb beds...nice daff bulbs in them still. I divide them and replant as I go. I Think they will make a good place for my gerbera daisies, which survived the heat wave in the greenhouse better then anything else! THe 3rd bed I think will become part of my veggie garden as last year's sweet pea netting should hold my green beans just fine. I can never have enough fresh green beans! And they jsut might smother out some of the weeds better then the sweet peas did last year.
I had a phone call this morning from our new customer saying she LOVES her bouquets. She wants just English roses so this time I gave her a mix of different pink roses with Sweet williams and green wheat. COuld have kicked myself that I forgot to take a photo of it. I thought it was pretty spectacular too! I used mostly Anne Boleyn with a few Othello,Joan Fontaine, Gertrude Jekyll,RAdio Times and GEoff Hamilton.
I asked her if she minded that they didn't last long and she said they were worth it!

I have An Abrham Darby here beside me on my desk for smell therapy.

Tomorrow I will be hunting out all the hoses. Can't beleive that the week after the 3" deluges the ground is powder dry.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 12:50AM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

I didn't get a chance to mow before it started to rain. At least it's cold, so the weeds won't be growing too fast.

I forgot to answer the lifestyle vs. business question. My answer is Yes. That is, both lifestyle and business. I make enough to more than pay for the business and pay a few bills also, but it will never support us and I'll never get rich unless I grow it much bigger - and I don't want to. I like it the way it is. I don't like having employees or having to drum up subscriptions or going to several markets a week. I do like working at my own speed and not worrying about anybody else's efficiency or taxes or anything else, for that matter. If market day is rainy and cold, I don't make much, since I only go to one, but come July, that won't happen anyhow. By far most of the money I make is in July and August anyhow. If I didn't make SOME money, I wouldn't do this. I might still have a small cutting garden just for me, but nothing near what I do now. For REAL money, my registered nurse job at a hospital is much easier and more lucrative. It's my choice to do that only part-time and grow flowers WAY more than full-time, in the season.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 1:09PM
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DapperDahlia(z6 Pa)

Oh have buds on your dahlias and mine arent even all above the ground yet! Am i not being fair when i think i'll have flowers by July?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 5:51PM
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susiq(NW AR 6B)

I have BLOOMS on "MY" dahlias! Just a handful, if that many. First time I've ever grown them! Hope they don't continue to bloom in syncopation. It's going to hurt to cut side buds when the time comes. Flowerfarmer, please do go ahead & find those last year Dahlia prices if you can. I MIGHT have enough to sell a few on Monday. Mine are Karmas.

Lots of interruptions again this week, but I DID get 144 sunflowers sown in 36 count trays yesterday, plus a few ornamental okra and some Cramer's crested celosia. Lots of seeds, for me, and "late", but that's when I had the time & seeds together. Am keeping ALL fingers crossed that the birds & grasshoppers DON'T get to these new starts. Am very frustrated they didn't germinate & grow six inches already! LOL!

I had gorgeous drumstick alliums in bloom yesterday, (about 2 dozen), and a nearly full field of wild rudbeckias, just gorgeous, but cutting didn't happen today due to interruptions, poor planning, and bad car battery (had to go get it fixed, time away from field-bummer!), and I have errands again tomorrow, so am fearful they won't last til Monday. Well, the rudbeckias will, but not the alliums. Will HAVE to get more of those--they look so cool--raspberry red, about the size of a quarter.

Various of my first year lilies have been blooming since mid -May or earlier. Saw a gorgeous med. yellow in bloom yesterday, fairly tall, lots of short whites, yellows, and pinks. Think they're all Asiatics. My sample of 5 Triumphator's that I got from Van E last fall have come and gone, but they were Beautiful. I see why you all like them! Will have to get more of them, and this gorgeous yellow one, too. Hope I can find it's name.

A friend came by the nursery Tuesday and said she had two azaleas she was digging up, so I went by after work, got them, and got them planted. My house shade garden is going from BLAH empty leaf piled on dirt, to shade garden in super fast speed! It already looks great, and I've just barely started planting the various hostas & other shade plants I've been getting. I'm so excited! Ah-MAZE-ing what a few plants will do to plain dirt! And, I'll have hostas, hydrangeas, and azaleas for use in bouquets during their seasons. Hooray!

My sister brought me a Bear's Breeches-Acanthus Molis which I've gotten planted. Anyone know anything about it as a cut? I saw something that said it made a good cut, but it only has one, fairly dominant/large flower spike on it, which would be impressive, but there's only the one!


    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 8:28PM
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I am new in introducing myself to the cutting forum. I live
in central New Jersey on a small vegetable farm. We sell
summer vegetables retail from a small stand at the end of
our driveway. Our workforce consists of myself, my husband
and my oldest son. Our stand doesn't open until early July
since sweet corn is our main crop. So since I don't need
cut flowers until then, I have just started to plant out
into the field. Today I was able to plant 8 flats (50 cell) of Lisianthus. Thats 8 flats down with 120 to go
of other assorted cut flowers (snaps, blue salvia, rudbeckia, celosia, statice, gomphrena, dianthus, cinnamon
basil, sunflowers and zinnias). I plant in rows on raised
plastic beds with drip irrigation. My husband alloted me
6 rows this year in the vegetable garden. But today looking
down those long rows, I thought to myself will I ever finish. Its nice to read about everyone else throughout the
country who are working hard also.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 8:33PM
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Oh have buds on your dahlias and mine aren't even all above the ground yet! Am i not being fair when i think i'll have flowers by July? Dapper, We have buds on our dahlias because we have some of them growing in one of our hoophouses. Otherwise, it is going to be late July before we begin harvest from the field. The hoophouse production should carry us until we can harvest in the field.

Susi, I was wondering which Karma dahlias you have. Why are you cutting off the side buds?

The lilies, Manhattan are so close to blooming. We need them for market this weekend. We also need those snapdragons.

Welcome gillie. At this moment in time, our work force also consists of myself, my husband and my oldest son. It is more work than three people can handle; but, we do the best we can. We have grandchildren come to the farm during the summer; and, we also have help when we are heavy into cutting flowers and making bouquets.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 10:40PM
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susiq(NW AR 6B)

Flowerfarmer--I don't WANT to cut off side shoots, it's just that I remembered from one of the other Dahlia threads recently that someone said you either have to to get a long enough stem, or that it doesn't matter, because the dahlia will send out more shoots once cut.

I don't remember which Karmas. I shared an order w/ Sherrie, and we each got half a tray of 4 different varieties. I have the info around here somewhere. The first one that bloomed for me is a luscious Burgandy-deep purple-magenta. Deep solid color. Another one looked like it's orangy, but I was in another area of the field and didn't look closely at it, last night. With my shade problems, some of the dahlias look like they may start blooming as short plants, while others are getting enough sun and will bloom on long stems.

Do we cut when they're full open or just showing color, or ??? Can't remember it off hand from the other threads. I know they're supposed to go in as warm as water as we're willing to haul to the field! LOL!


    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 11:51PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Armitage says to cut dahlias when 75% to fully open. That's the best in my experience. In fact I prefer them less than fully open because they last longer that way. I don't cut into warm water but into cool, ambient-temperature preservative water, then let them condition in a cool place for at least 3 hours before arranging. They last 7 days that way, maybe longer. If you cut them any younger, forget it, they aren't going to open, so cut the buds only if you like how they look as buds. Sometimes I'll leave a bud on a stem with an open flower because it looks nice in the vase that way, but that bud isn't going to open.

I'll be planting my dahlias in a raised bed sometime in the next few days. I started them all in the greenhouse in pots, most in March, the three Karmas a month later because that's when I got them. Even so, not one has a flower bud. Several are a foot tall and bushy, including the last-planted Karmas (I have great hopes for them), but some are pretty small still, with only one set of good leaves. Ah, North Idaho weather! Even a heated hoophouse can't make up for the serious lack of sun until July. I don't think the dahlias are going to do much in the next week, either planted or in their pots, as we're expecting highs in the 50's and low 60's and rain most days for the next ten days or so. That's normal for June here. July will be better, or at least it usually is!

gillie, welcome to the loony bin! Most of us are certifiably nuts, me definitely included. I think this is something you do because you love it, rather than to get rich, although that's always a good goal. There are a few rare people who have made tons of money at it, like Pamela and Frank Arnosky. Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 4:15PM
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Noni Morrison

GILLIE, welcome. I am salivating at the idea of all those rows prepared and ready for flowers or seed! I do it most all by hand as I have small places. I do get some help from Hubby with my dad's old ROtotiller when breaking new ground, but don;t have much more to clear unless I cut down my forest...ain't going there, lol. Actually my forest prvides tons of ferns, salal and huckle, as well as salmon berry blooms, huckleberry blooms, douglass fir, hazel twigs, alder buds ,etc...all part of our CALICO GARDENS look. I have my early plants all in now, but still have to celar off beds by hand to plant the sunflowers and zinnias. Oh well, it is just now weather for planting them. I had nice zinnina starts then we got a 90 degree heat wave that fried everythng still in my greenhouse while I was running around trying to cope. I keep eyeing the corner of our property along the road intersection...I could leave the wild cherry and other delectable woody plants, and take out just enough for some nice 60' rows but I would have to deer fence it first. Actualy I am having trouble keeping up with what I have!


    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 5:00PM
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Susi, Because Karma dahlias are bred specifically for cutflowers, they are slightly different than our two acre field grown dahlia crop. We have approximately 800 Karma dahlia plants in the hoophouses. Only the Karma Dahlia has a vase life of 8 to 10 days. Never ever promise a customer that any other dahlia is going to last longer than 5 days. If by chance they do, it's a bonus for them; but, if you tell them they will, they will may your life miserable. Harvest the Karma dahlia when the flower is slightly open and showing color. This is different than the field grown tuber dahlias. We havest the field grown dahlias when they are at a stage pretty much fully open. As far as cutting into hot/warm water, we don't. We cut into hydrating solution; and, then move them to a professional holding solution. I don't recommend a homemade solution for dahlias. They do not like bleach. Sometimes you will get a sideshoot that comes right up in front of the flower. We cut those off and leave the shoot that is behind the flower. Pooch calls the sideshoots Tag-a-longs.

If you are selling to a florist, Susi, the pricing is going to be different than our farmers market prices. Or, is your order for a retail/subscription customer? Working backward from the dinnerplate at $5/stem, the prices go down per size to $1/stem for the small ones. The miniatures we put in these cute little fluted metal 6" tall containers; and, sold the bouquet only for $10. That was for field grown dahlias. These are last years prices. If you have Sangria, Bon Bini or Corona those would have been $3/stem. The decorative: Amanda, Lagoon, Naomi, Prospero, Serena and Venture would have been $3/stem or $4/stem depending on size. Another thing to bear in mind is production. Hoophouse production produces taller stems and approximately 15 stems per plant. Field production produces on shorter plants and 6-8 stems per plant.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 6:30PM
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susiq(NW AR 6B)

Liza Lily, Jeanne, and Flowerfarmer, thanks all for your help!

I was afraid my Karma info was lost under deep piles, and then I found it nearly instantly. Good Karma? LOL--couldn't resist!

I apparantly have: Naomi, Bon Bini, Amanda, and Thalia. I think Thalia is the one that was the first bloomer--that wonderful maroon-purple. My info calls it fuschia.

My sales will be to one subscription customer, included in a bouquet, and probably to start with, just one florist. Not sure how many will open this weekend, and I won't really have time to be in my field til Sunday. I can't imagine a florist paying $30.00 for one bunch of 10 stems of anything!, unless they were some super giant size delphs, or exquisite lilies/roses/ tropical somethings from a wholesaler. But that may be my self-limiting head-talk talking.

So, what should I charge a florist?

Would or do dahlias do good as restaurant flowers? I'm contemplating contacting the restaurants again.

Are the pre-potted dahlias on 12-18" stems at Lowe's any good? I've been tempted, just to have "some", but I snatched my hand away remembering all those in the field.

In a long season, won't the dahlia plant keep producing more stems than just the 6-8 per plant? Or is that just 6-8 per cutting? I wonder why field production is so much lower than hoophouse production? It doesn't make sense to me, but I'm not a plant scientist. I think I can already tell I wish I'd planted more, and, I wish I'd gotten more of mine in more sun. Oh well, live and learn.

Welcome, too, Gillie. Looking forward to your posts and adventures in flower land!


    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 9:18PM
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Dahlias that size are usually sold 5/bunch to the florist. Last year I think they were something like $8.50 to $9.50. Why do I know these things?
I always ask.............

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 10:41PM
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GrassIsEvil(z6 TN)

I have a restaurant manager who really likes dahlias. They strike a balance.

John -- 'I want something that looks like you just picked it, but not like you just picked it.'
Translation: He wanted an informal arrangement that looked as if you had just picked it from a cottage garden, not a bouquet that looked as if you had walked along the road and picked some flowers by the wayside.

John -- 'But those geraniums would be fine.'
Ray -- 'Those are dahlias, John.'
John -- 'Some of them, then. And the sea urchins.'
Ray -- 'Those are dahlias, John.'
John -- 'And the little ones.'
Ray -- 'Those are dahlias, John.'
John -- 'You're making fun of me, aren't you?'
Ray -- 'No, but keep it up and I will.'

Back to restaurants--the dahlias work well in so many different styles and containers and colors. I've also noticed that my male customers especially like them.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 11:39PM
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susiq(NW AR 6B)

Muchas gracias to both of you. That's as far as my Espanol goes.

If I can just keep those ideas spinning in my head til field time Sunday and even more importantly, selling time on Monday!

Ooooooh! I just remembered those luscious photos from the lady in California, all those bright pots and bright zinnias/dahlias/roses---wouldn't THAT look cool at a restaurant!!!

OOOOOOH to keep the midnight momentum going in hot sun & on sales trips Monday. "Just" one long hot day at the nursery tomorrow, then evening commitment, then church Sunday if I don't skip, and THEN I get to work in the hot sun Sunday afternoon. It'a a LONG time to wait for "instant" gratification!

Good luck in all the Saturday markets everybody!


    Bookmark   June 4, 2005 at 2:13AM
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Thanks for all the welcome notes. I'm moving along at
a snail's pace. This morning I was able to plant 8 flats
of Statice and 4 flats of Snaps. Now I wait until evening
to put in some more as the temp is reaching close to 90
today. I also moved all remaining cutting flats and hanging
baskets from one greenhouse without rollup sides to one
with rollup sides. Now that the temps are getting warmer,
even with a shadecloth the one greenhouse without the rollup
sides gets stifling. So all remaining plants are in one
greenhouse. We also sell bedding flats, potted plants and
hanging baskets in May and June to start off a cash flow.
Money is always tight this time of year until our vegetable
sales start. So between taking care of those plants, the
vegetable garden, planting the cut flowers has to be fit in
somehow. Just taking a little break then its back to work.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 1:35PM
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Patty_WI(z4 WI)

We had our Spring farmers market meeting on Tuesday. The official start of the season is two weeks away, but there were a couple of us that wanted to start early. We went to the new location and set up our stalls, but did not get much traffic. The new location is in a strip mall parking lot. Lots of sun and very windy. There was two of us their with plants and a honey vender.

The good news is that 2 of the 3 boquets that I brought sold. The other one was tipped ofer by the wind a couple of times and looked pretty ratty after the second tip. I will have to weight the vases next time. The previous location had shade and little wind so I did not know what to expect.

The woman who bought the bouquets said that her daughter is getting married in Aug. Another vender is going to do the wedding, but she is sure they'll need more flowers than this vender has available and is interested in buying some flowers from me at that time.

I guess it was worth going to market just for that! Been busy battleing cutworms and planting the rest of my odds and ends. The Iris is blooming and the peoneys are almost in the right stage to cut.

I plan on calling the florist that I approached in the fall and bringing the irises. I'll also take a list of what I planted so I know what/how much she'll be interested in buying.

Hope everyone has a good week.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 3:05PM
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Noni Morrison

Busy day with adult kids home for Dad's birthday...couldn't REALLY get to the garden until they left. (Go home kids, Mom's got work to do....not)Anyhow, after they left I got to change from Mom to Gardenwoman. DH got out the weed trimmer and we trimmed the paths through where I had all my sun- loving flowers last summer. Now I Have found where the beds are supposed to be, LOL. THere are about 40 Stargazer lilies that were completely hidden under bindweed, but I don't think it had covered them long because they don't look too bad. Others that were one yr lilies last year are looking much better and I found an inula that I planted last yr that is 2 ft hight and has a flower in full bloom! I never had one bloom or even saw it other then in the catalog! I have half a doxen seedlings to set out to join company with the one, which I am sure whill take off and grow much larger.

I have to figure out what to plant in the peony bed. LAst yr I planted zinnias and they grew 5-6' tall and I was afraid I would loose my peonies! They did survive but I don't want to do that again! Tomorrow I will start digging out the beds.

I pulled all the plants out of the greenhouses today and set them out in our cool overcast weather, hoping it rains on them tonight.

And the dahlias that I started in pots, I have several open flowers from...all anemone or singles for my own pleasure. 'Fire and Ice' is very pretty! OH for a week with no interruptions! Unfortunately I beleive I have a day in the city for a dental appt midweek. ...hope it pours all day! DAng,,,forgot to move my sprinkler hose and turn it back on and it is dark now. OH well, found another one under the grass in the garden I was working on so tomorrow maybe I can get two of them going.

OH yes, I have the first Chrysanthmum 'Merry Mix' flower...cute! Also the Campus Apricot cosmos are beginning to bloom (strange color, like orange over purple- pink). Haven't even planted any regular ones out.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 1:25AM
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