If you’ve visited our store in the peak of spring, you’ve seen that among the sea of tropical plants and colorful flowers, the greenhouse also contains hundreds of beautiful hanging baskets. What you might not know is that our hanging baskets – as well as many of our other annual flowers, trees, shrubs, and perennials – are grown by our own team at our nearby farms. And while winter may have only just begun – with spring plans still a distant thought for many – at our farms, spring is already well underway.
Our team started making plans for next spring even before the leaves began changing last fall. And this year at our production greenhouse in Gretna, we have some exciting new changes happening too. Our main focus there this year is on hanging baskets, large planters, and cannas. We’ve got a great selection planned for this year, including some exciting new varieties like ‘Merlot Mix’ impatiens – a mix of white, pink, and deep magenta blooms – and ‘Confetti Bel Air Red’ – a beautiful blend of red petunias, peach verbena, and orange calibrachoa. We’re also growing some amazing new coleus hanging baskets for this spring as well.
And as we’ve continued to see a growing demand for our colorful hanging baskets, we’re looking forward to making some adjustments to our growing process this winter. The biggest addition is the installation of four new overhead hanging-basket systems at the production greenhouse – to go along with the eight we already have. These mechanisms are pretty remarkable. They work by holding and rotating the baskets through a watering system that gives each container the correct amount of water and fertilizer as it passes by. The new additions will hold roughly 1,400 added plants – freeing up a significant amount of growing space below. Our team is pretty excited about their recent installation – and the chance to offer more of the planters that you love.
Spring production on our farms certainly is a process. The process for our hanging baskets and planters all starts in September as we place orders for all of our soil, containers, and tags – as well as finalize the varieties and quantities of the plants we’ll grow. Once that’s decided, we work with plant propagators at partner nurseries that produce the plants as tiny two-inch ‘plugs.’ We receive those starting in January and will continue to grow them until spring. So while there’s still snow on the ground and freezing temperatures outside, we’ll be potting up baby plants in a nice warm greenhouse – usually around 70 degrees.
To plant our hanging baskets and large planters, we use a potting machine that first fills each pot with soil before four or five plugs are planted into each container. The pots are then tagged, priced, and placed out in the production greenhouse to be watered in. About two weeks later – when the plants have developed a good root system – it’s time to either prune or apply what’s called a ‘plant-growth regulator.’ Both result in more branching to produce a fuller, more compact plant. Then the plants are moved to their space in the greenhouse where they’ll continue to grow until they’re ready to come to the store. The hanging baskets are hung on the overhead systems, and the planters are spaced on the floor to encourage healthy air flow. And after a couple months or so of monitoring and managing their growth, we load them up and bring them to the store for everyone to enjoy.
We know it’s cold out there now and spring planters might not be on your mind. But when warmer weather comes and you’re ready to welcome spring to your doorstep and patio, we’ll have those beautiful hanging baskets and planters ready for you here in our greenhouse.