Shawnee News-Star August 25 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg The catered lunch at the Plant Materials Conference (drinks and snacks were available throughout the morning) was great. Mexico Joe's set up a buffet of cooked peppers and onions, beans, meats, cheese, salsa, tortillas and cookies. After lunch, the lights went down and it fell on the […]

Shawnee News-Star August 25 2018

Tulsa botanic Garden Entrance Oct 2014

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The catered lunch at the Plant Materials Conference (drinks and snacks were available throughout the morning) was great. Mexico Joe's set up a buffet of cooked peppers and onions, beans, meats, cheese, salsa, tortillas and cookies.

After lunch, the lights went down and it fell on the shoulders of Ben Miller, President of Stutzman's Greenhouse, Inc. to keep us awake and alert with 'Changes to Survive in Today's Garden Center Industry.' For those of us not directly involved in the Industry, Stutzman's talk was an eye-opener about larger scale nursery operations.

Tulsa botanic Garden Entrance April 2018: My has it changed.

In 'Go Green Part 1', the Enid Garden House and Nursery, Inc. was what I would call a small size family operated greenhouse nursery.   Stutzman's Greenhouse, Inc. is medium sized. In the 1950's, the Stutzman cousins did truck gardening and sold plants and tomato starts along the roadside. At that time there were few bedding plant options for the retail operation.   Ben Stutzman and his wife, dairy farmers, took the plunge and bought his cousin's business in 1985. They learned important lessons:   Be adaptable to markets/businesses and grow something unique for which your nursery is known.   Eventually the firm expanded to 7 acres greenhouse space, 4 outdoor acres and 11 seasonal garden centers across Kansas.   All are open from March to October.   To get an idea of size, the primary retail location in Pleasantview, KS has a 40,000 ft2 greenhouse, the Gift Gallery and Boutique cover 7,000 ft2 and the Nursery 2,500 ft2.     Thousands of plugs are used for bedding plant flats.   Potted mums, azaleas, Hibiscus and tropicals are trucked to independent florists.

Stutzman noted the trend in the plant nursery industry was toward corporate takeover. Smaller growers were being kicked out because the Independents failed to see how seriously customers preferred convenience.   Thus, the Stutzman business built strong interactions with garden clubs and shows.   They have a designated marketing budget of 65% with 21% radio but 0% newspaper, and sales are 75% wholesale/25% retail.   Virtually all production goes through their own retail centers.

Stutzman's make their soil mixture of composted pine bark, peat moss, vermiculite and fertilizer.   Earlier, the greenhouses were devoted to 35,000 ft2 of geraniums with 4,000 ft2 in 14' tubs.   The source of the geranium callus cuttings come from Guatemala and Costa Rico.  Callus cuttings are sections of plant stems treated so one end forms tissue above which roots sprout.   The cuttings were placed directly in the special soil and rooted rapidly.   Four hundred flats/hour were processed. April 16th 2018 was their worst April ever. It was so cold and windy many plants burned, as in freezer burn, and perished.

Nearly eight thousand 12-inch 'Mumbo Mums' (mum combo: 3 plugs grown together in pot) and ten semi-loads of pumpkins will be in place for the Fall Festival last Saturday in September.  The Stutzman passion is to beautify America one home at a time!   They have almost enough plants to do this.

What plants interest you? Thought-provoking ideas were presented by the Director of the Tulsa Botanic Garden, Todd Lasseigne in 'Gardening Under the Umbrella of Ornamentals.'   Ornamentals offer many fringe benefits.   Azaleas or yuccas can form living collections as seen in diversity trials.   Play with texture and form.   Todd stated we all know Clematis and mail boxes co-evolved together since dinosaurs!   Who can forget the lollipop tree with wood trunk topped by a green ball of leaves.   Ornamentals can be novel.   Slender sweet gums or Bald Cypresses growing in a row caste an interesting silhouette.   How about yellow twigs on Box Elders in winter?   Ever try the cold hardy strain of 'Swamp Palmetto'?

The pollinator myth!   Lasseigne mentioned Butterfly weed may not be the best garden icon for Millennials.   The group is easily distracted and discouraged.   They need plants they can't kill, such as the hardy Verbena simplex, a tall native perennial with lavender flowers.   Grow the vigorous, heat tolerant, butterfly and hummingbird-loving Porterweed (Stachytarfeta mutabilis).   He thinks the nectar rich salmon pink flowers make this the #1 plant for Monarch butterflies.

Ponder this. Some plants not considered native in central Oklahoma are native in countries where our pollinators overwinter.   They would recognize them here as well.   Want something different?   Salvia uliginosa, the bog sage, comes from Argentina. The light blue flowers are butterfly magnets. Or go native and plant Kintzley's Ghost (Lonicera reticulata), an heirloom honeysuckle that looks like a Silver-Dollar Eucalyptus plant.   The round white bracts surround tiny yellow flowers.

Now for the BIG Greenhouse nursery.   Ben Selanders, Technical Rep based in Edmond, OK, gave an overview of Aris Horticulture with a different perspective on floriculture. Remember Stutzman's?   They have 35 year-round and 150 seasonal employees.   Aris Horticulture employs 650 people.   Headquarters are in Barberton, Ohio.   The 3 growing areas are located in Alva, FL, Lancaster, PA and Leamington, Ontario, Canada.   Aris has two divisions of plants.   Starter plants begin in Green Leaf Division on 7 acres, 2 propagation facilities, and 50 hoop houses all on liners.   Liners are young plants that need additional growing time before being sold as starter plants.

Selanders gave this example: 140 varieties of Perennial Dianthus plants in 1,632 trays, each with 288 (1.5 inch) plugs were supplied by 7 breeders at the Lancaster Facility. The harvested cuttings were propagated within the Elite house with virus tests done on a quarterly basis before the plants were transplanted.   The plants have a 35-week life cycle.  Total Dianthus stock is 25,000 ft2 equivalent to 4 million Dianthus plants.   That's a lot of pink.

Animated Ben Selander

The Keepsake Division has Yoder Mums, Hydrangeas, Mandevillas and cultivated the Keepsake Azaleas for over 30 years. Eighteen commercial varieties of Tradewinds Hibiscus have been created during a 37-year breeding program.   Aris Industry is the leader in tropical Hibiscus.   Selanders ended with these observations:   a successful company is not afraid to take risks, data is based on facts, successful growers do the right thing at the right time, recruit and retain talented employees, use empathy and understandingBE NICE(the very words Eloise Smith of The Garden House in Enid said) and know it is never as bad as it seems.   Remember the wise old Dutch saying 'Soup is rarely eaten at the temperature it is served.'

Last speaker was Jason Vogel, Director of the Oklahoma Water Survey.   Nursery and Greenhouse runoff contain fertilizers and pesticides.   What to do?   His program 'How to be Good Stewards of Runoff' focused on projects involving bioretention cells and retention ponds (constructed Wetlands) with flood control structures and adaptable plants. Mike Schnelle recommended plants that support symbiotic organisms and provide aesthetic appeal: Rush, Sedge, Cattails, Cannas, Waterlily/Lotus, Horsetail, Iris orchioides, and Pond Cypress. The presentation ended with data from experiments using bifenthrin and fipronil.   Overall Field Summary showed at least 75% reduction of pollutants by using retention wetlands.   The field trials demonstrated a very effective way for nurseries to manage contaminated runoff.

Managing Pesticide/Fertilizer runoff

Steve Dobbs, Oklahoma State University Grounds and Landscape Manager, wrapped up the conference with a tour around OSU campus for people to see the various projects and gardens.

The Green Industry ranges from small family garden nurseries all the way to large industrial sized distribution centers.   Ornamentals, tropicals, natives and cultivars all have origins in nurseries, the places where most babies begin their lives!