The 2003 Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting was held at Farmhouse Flowers & Plants in Brookeville, Maryland on Tuesday, July 29th. One hundred ten people attended the meeting, with some traveling from as far as Utah, Alabama and Texas. Several new ASCFG members were in attendance, as well as people who are thinking of starting their own specialty cut flower business. The theme of the meeting was "Twelve Months of Cut Flowers."
In the morning four speakers each gave a presentation on a different season of the year and what can be harvested during that season. After lunch Dave Dowling led a tour of the fields at Farmhouse Flowers & Plants where attendees were able to ask questions about specific crops covered in the presentations earlier in the day. Below is a brief outline of what was covered by each of the speakers.
Cut Flowers for Winter Harvest
Dave Dowling handed out a sheet with detailed growing information for several crops that have been successful at Farmhouse Flowers & Plants. Greenhouse crops included LA and Oriental lilies grown in crates, anemones and ranunculus grown in 8" mum pans and sunflowers grown in crates. Amaryllis for cutting can be grown in crates in a greenhouse, but can also be grown in pots under grow lights or in a warm, sunny window. Other greenhouse crops mentioned were freesias, tulips, Dutch iris, paperwhites, and Dicentra, bleeding heart.
Other winter-harvested crops include winterberry holly, red-twig dogwood, and Pee Gee hydrangea picked in the fall and sold as a dried flower during the winter holidays.
Cut Flowers for Spring Harvest
Bob Wollam spoke about spring harvested crops. Bob started by saying that he wasn't including perennials in his talk, saying "You should already have them in the ground, I'm going to tell you about things you need to go home and plant today". Bob split his spring crops into four groups:
- Plugs to be planted outside. These included dianthus (sweet William), achillea ('Colorado' and other seed varieties), hesperis, and rudbeckia 'Indian Summer' and 'Prairie Sun'.
- Direct-sown seeds. These include larkspur, nigella, bupleurum, silene, and centaurea or bachelor buttons. Planted with an Earthway seeder or hand sown.
- Plugs and bulbs for the cold frame. These included Icelandic poppies, freesias, ranunculus and anemones.
- Bulbs for outdoors. This group included tulips (Bob says "plant them deep, 6-10 inches will give you longer stems") and Dutch iris.
Cut Flowers for Summer Harvest
Carol and Leon Carrier of PlantMasters in Laytonsville, Maryland, spoke about their main summer-harvested annual crops. The Carriers spoke about lisianthus and how they have started to use netting with great improvement on stem quality. (One look at the greenhouse full of leaning lisianthus at Farmhouse Flowers & Plants and everyone knew just what the Carriers were talking about). Leon talked about the sunflower varieties they grow and how later in the summer they grow more of the darker, autumn color varieties which sell better in late summer and fall. Dahlias are another big seller for PlantMasters, growing both tubers that they save and rooted cuttings. A new crop for the Carriers has been the dianthus 'Amazon Neon Duo', which they sow in early February and start harvesting in July. Zinnia, celosia and the 'Gloriosa' rudbeckias round out the summer crops for the Carriers.
Cut Flowers for Fall Harvest
Sue Baldwin from BFG Plant Connection in Burton, Ohio rounded out the day's speaker schedule with information about Salvia leucantha or Mexican velvet sage, which is a great fall-blooming salvia. Salvia leucantha is a short-day plant, meaning it starts to bloom in the fall when the days are shorter. Flowering begins in mid-September and will continue until frost. In areas with the potential for early frosts, high tunnels or row cover can be used to keep the crop in production for a longer period. Also covered by Sue were sunflowers, gladiolus, and dianthus. Sunflowers and gladiolus can be succession planted though out the summer to extend the season into late fall. Dianthus 'Amazon Neon Duo' will bloom until frost in most areas and can take a light frost with row cover protection.
People attending the meeting where given many ideas of ways to extend their season, their product selection, and thereby potentially increasing their specialty cut flower income.
Comments from meeting attendees:
- Dave - A quick thank-you for hosting the meeting last week. It was worth the five-hour trip to see your farm and mingle with other kindred spirits. My lilies have been a godsend this season. I've come a long way from the crates in the living room. Thanks again for your help!
Maureen Charde, High Meadow Flower Farm, Warwick, New York
- Dave - Just wanted to say thanks for an enjoyable day and for letting me register at the last minute!
Kathy York, Scarborough Farm, Mechanicsville, Maryland
- Dave - Thank you for hosting the ASCFG meeting last Tuesday. As you know, it was my first. It changed my life, as you said it would. Your enthusiasm, relaxed informative style and generosity made that gathering an easy learning center and I soaked it up. I am very impressed with you, the ASCFG and the wonderful mix of flower lovers it has gathered together. Everyone I talked to could not have been more encouraging.
Dennis Chandler, Bloomsberry Flowers, Georgetown, Delaware
- Hi Dave - Just wanted to thank you again for hosting the ASCFG meeting. Your farm is beautiful and inspiring!
Lisa Biggar, Galena Blooms, Galena, Maryland