Synopsis: Being a gardener, I know what Spring Fever is. Big time. But sometimes the plants are just not ready. A discussion of timing in the nursery industry, and how home gardeners are affected.
The first real sunny Spring day in a rainy year. Of course, between the sunny spells its hailing! Whether or not global warming is the cause, the weather over the last five years has become less and less predictable. So the always-difficult task of timing the propagation, transplanting, feeding, grooming and hardening off of Spring nursery stock has become even more of a dilemma.
Fact: Plant sales start 4 to 6 weeks before the onset of settled weather.
Fact: To have a good variety of stock available – healthy, well branched and hardened off from any greenhouse time is somewhere between difficult and impossible.
Now let me clarify that last statement. It is problematic to have nice plants using sustainable methods. Not easy, but doable with little regard for the use of chemicals and fuel for heating. Let’s take an example, Salvia gesneriiflora 'Tequila', as an example.
Big Mexican Scarlet is a shrub in Zones 9 and above, and a herbaceous perennial in Zone 8. It is a Winter bloomer. Cuttings taken in the fall will inevitably bloom, and need to be cut back and allowed to re-grow before the plant is saleable (or ready to plant). This takes until at least June, sometimes July here in Northern California for the cuttings we take in the Fall to be of the quality we demand for sale.
But in June or July, we sell few of these beautiful plants. Most of the sales are in late March to the end of May.
Many nurseries go the Fall route, use plant growth regulators to keep the stock short, and put them on the heat in February to get them to grow. In my opinion, the resultant plant is not only stressed and out of sync, but the chemicals and fuel used to get it to that point is not appropriate or wise.
So we have learned to carefully time the rooting of cuttings in early March, and we can now get good stock ready in late April. But we still lose out on the strong and important first sales surge of the season. And if the weather is as unpredictable as it has lately been, the chances of getting it “right” are slim.
This pattern or a variant thereof is something we have to contend with for hundreds of different cultivars. You no doubt see the dilemma. Grow “unnaturally” and have something ready for early sales, or do it sustainably and have great plants ready a few weeks later – maybe.
We are not unlike a number of small, family run nurseries around the country that put quality at the top of our list. But all of these businesses need to make sales when their customers decide the time is right. And that time is often not when the best plants or really any plants at all are or can be available.
I would very much appreciate your comments and opinions on this subject.
Great service, outstanding selection. I'd order from them again.
— Roxanne gunser
We ordered plants from Flowers by the Sea and are very happy. Except for one, they arrived in good condition. The service and attention to detail was excellent and we highly recommend. Waiting now for the rainy season to kick it into high gear. I think that will really push them forward.
— Susan Miller
Yesterday afternoon another delivery of FBTS plants arrived. They looked beautiful right out of the box. This is the fourth time I've ordered from you this year, and each and every plant was in great shape, ready to grow and bloom (except for the two that the gophers ate -- now I plant in gopher-proof planting baskets). This time, two of the plants were actually in bloom, and the shipping wa...
— Mary Jo Ballator
I live in NY and wanted to try my hand at growing California salvias. Flowers by the Sea had so many of the plants I wanted and more. I am currently growing 10 different varieties and they are doing great. Whenever I had any questions about growing tips and such FBTS always tried their best to guide me in the right direction. As long as I can keep growing these plants in this zone I will al...
— Barnaby Black
FBTS offers and delivers fantastic products. I purchase high-end plants from plugs to full grown, specimen tree cultivars. FBTS has been a very welcome addition to my Maryland business. They have filled an important niche in my plant material supply chain, and I cannot recommend them enough. From containers to beds to borders, their plants deliver a difference to my clients gardens.
— Eric Wittman
This is my second year ordering from this fine nursery. The plants are large and healthy, and the choices are spectacular! They were very well packed and shipping was very quick.
My "Summer Jewell Red" and "David Verity" Salvia arrived on time nice and moist (from CA to GA) and were in the containers on my deck within an hour. Hummingbirds on the Jewell Red Salvia within hours. Vigorous beautiful specimens and prompt arrival assured me that this is the "only way to go" in the future. Thanks for the personal service and beautiful plants.
— Stephen Wilks
I have always been a salvia fan and when I lived in CA I had hundreds of plants. When I moved to NJ I was in a cold climate and nurseries in the area did not compare with the SF Bay Area. I actually stumbled upon your website one late summer and ordered Zone 6 hardy plants. When they arrived I was pleased to find very large and healthy plants. And we order online from several large nurseries. I...
— Steve Stahl
All of the plants arrived in excellent condition and are thriving beautifully in my South Carolina garden
— Hutchinson D. Cummin
I ordered Amistad Salvia mid May and was so excited to receive such healthy lush plants from California. I am in growing zone 6 Maryland. Four are in full sun and blooming like crazy as of July 1 and about 3 feet high. I have another one in a pot that only gets afternoon sun. Much smaller and is now blooming July 10th. Hummers are here. Color is an incredible vibrant deep purple blue. Wil...