We have been experimenting in the greenhouse with growing specialty cut flowers. I got the idea for cut lilies in crates from Karthauser which we tried for the first time last year. It was very succesful, easy, and a good way to provide our floral design students with high value flowers at a reasonable cost. This year I ordered the ‘deluxe’ collection from Gloeckner so we will see if they are that much better than ‘economy’ which were fantastic. Gloeckner offers a great mix of several different bulbs for cut and pot forcing. There are 50 bulbs of each of 4-5 different varieties. We did an Asiatic and an Oriental mix of cuts.
We also just potted some Asiatics for spring sales on Jan 18, specifically our Earth Day event April 16. We will be close on timing as the potted crop takes about 120 days. Full buds, cracking color is our goal for April 16 sale. Easter is the following week so we should be good.
In addition to the cut lilies we also experimented with a couple other cuts. We planted Anemone, Dianthus and Delphinium Nov 28 from plugs provided by our broker Ball Horticultural. It’s interesting to see how many specialty cuts are now offered by Ball, and how many were sold out, when I tried to place an order in September. I take this as an excellent sign for the U.S. floriculture industry in that even though the production of some of the major crops like roses and mums have moved offshore, the demand for specialty cuts is increasing.
The demand and prices for poinsettias hwoever is flat. They are expensive to grow as they require high heat in the greenhouse during winter which is too expensive here in WI. These factors have made us decide to leave poinsettia growing and focus our attention on specialty cuts that can be grown cold. Our greenhouses for these cuts is at about 55 degrees. The plants grow slow but have thick, strong stems and good bud count. I get rather nervous when I see these 6′ stems but florists prefer the long stems. We decided to try this without using any growth regulators.
We planted the cut lilies a little earlier this year October 19. Last year we didn’t plant until late November. The shortening days have caused the plants to grow pretty tall but I see a good bud count at this point. We will have to see if bud count and/or flower size and quality have diminished at all this year by planting earlier. I will be looking to see if the plants sacrificed energy to stem production rather than flower size. It looks like we will be able to harvest Asiatics in the next couple weeks with Orientals about three weeks later. This will be perfect for our floral design classes. We also tried to stagger production by a few weeks this year. I’m not sure that will work out exactly as planned. They all seem to be coming on at about the same rate.
The Anemone (?), Dianthus ‘Sweet Red’ and Delphinium ‘Guardian Lavender’ were all planted from plugs Sept 28 and placed in the same house as the lilies at 55 deg. The anemones began blooming in early January during our winter break so we will need to time them later for next year. We planted each plug in a 4.5 pot. I think we might be able to grow these in crates to save space next year. Th eplants ar epretty small. The anemone crop is fairly uniform in bloom with most plants blooming at the same time. I cut some of the flowers Jan 5 and it looks like these plants will provide a second flush of flowers. They should be ready for harvest in about 2 weeks. Growth is quite slow in the cool greenhouse but they don’t have to be watered much either. No pest problems have been seen but once we arrive at ten-hour day lengths in early Feb and the sun warmed greenhouse, we will begin to see aphids. We use the aphid wasp predator to control them which is totally effective and fun for students to see. I think we may still have Encarsia wasp buzzing around as we have a winter tomato crop and no white fly. Again Feb is pest awareness month!
The Delphinium has sent up a couple blooms here and there but the stems are short for the bulk of the flower. They look a little weak to me, I think they would like it a bit warmer. We are also seeing a few nutrient deficiency symptoms from cold soil. We will see what the florists say about them. The color is a washed out lavender. Not sure I’m too impressed.
The Dianthus is just beginning to bloom with long, tall, straight stems. Seems like a lot of foliage and fluff and not that much color to the bloom. They need to send out more than 2-3 flowers at a time to harvest and sell effectively.
In the meantime we are beginning to seed early spring cool season annuals – pansy, linaria, diasca soon.