Sunday, April 18, 2010

Its Time for a Visitation

On your mark....get set.....go!
That's the third week of April at the greenhouse. Not every year, but this year's coincidental perfect weather for gardening and specific delivery dates are getting ready to cause an eruption like the Iceland volcano out at Deadman's Hollow. Before the week is out, the beautiful orderly rows of neatly marching flats and tags, the swept out office and the full benches, will yield to gaps, holes in inventory, carts willy nilly, a virtual tornado of lists, an answering machine on tilt and finally, the longest two days of the spring. In there somewhere, Blake will have a birthday. All before May Day.
We primed as best we could today. The first of several fund raiser orders is on the truck in our driveway. About 250 flats that Lee and I racked up this afternoon while Ryan was in Norfolk and Columbus and Blake made two drops in Nebraska City with Gabe and Abbie. Cool enough today that we were able to pick up an order instead of lurching from wilt to wilt. Needed another order to have a start on the morning, but no phone call and one fax and we are behind instead of ahead.
It was nice to see that big space open up in one of the boom bays..first open area for nearly a month. Just a start. Tomorrow evening we'll pick up the City of Overland Park's order; a week ahead, but the plants defied the winter's dark afternoons and grew happily ahead of schedule. Late in the day, its nice to pick up an order that requires no creativity, no decisions, and barely any counting! No "if I send this flat to these folks, I won't have this plant for someone later this week that I KNOW will want it". Nope, these flowers will be headed south and I know we planted an extra of every one of them. The challenge will be to keep low and duck under the baskets in short #14.
Tuesday is Williams Nursery day. I've lost track of how many years we've picked up one, maybe two, trailers full of plants for the Williams' of Malvern. They are good customers but its never an easy order...instead of 10 of this flower or the ever popular 100 flats assorted, their order is one per variety of several hundred flowers. It makes a beautiful patchwork on the greenhouse floor, but is highly labor intensive to put down and pick up. Compensation? A check at the end of the evening and all the help they have on hand. Like the Hursts, the Williams' have never been shy about enlisting the family when crunch time arrives. The last several years, Ryan has stopped by McDonald's on his way home and purchased a whole bag of cheeseburgers and fries. As the sun sets on Hurst Greenery, we feast on cold cheeseburgers and beer and notch one hurdle down.
Now its Monday night...............what an incredibly long day! A rare beauty meteorlogically, with high sunshine, calm winds and moderate temperatures. Thanks be, because we didn't take time to put all hands on deck with water wands in hand. For the gals, it was a day for tidying up, mopping up some partial trays, planting a short crop of 606s for mid May and sticking little 4" cuttings into bigger dirt for later May gardeners. What we always can't sell 'em if they're not planted
Picking lots of pretty baskets...we bought some 'Confetti' plugs from Dummen. These are one of the "hot new things" with several companies offering big plugs with 3 different cuttings together. Someone calls them 'multi cut' plugs. Ugh. Who thought that sounded irresistible tripping off the horticultural tongue? Dummen's 'Confetti' brand, with the fun and colorful tags has yielded rounded full baskets with clear Crayon marker colors. They aren't cheap, but I am sure there is a labor saving in planting and, thus far, no losers. They are so pretty, I can't imagine there will be any left for me to test over the course of the summer. And for those who miss out; never fear, I couldn't resist buying some for summer pots/baskets.
We had a giant elaborate itinerary for tomorrow; but, per usual, it possessed a giant flaw. So, back to my favorite...winging it. My motto for this week: Scarlet's from 'Gone with the Wind'..."I'll worry about that Tomorrow." Have to admit, coming home to my quiet house in the dark tonight, that Spruce as refuge and talisman didn't seem too farfetched.

So, where shall we go tomorrow? The answering machine's evil red eye blinked incessantly today. I filed that away under, "first things first" and we plowed forward filling the racks for Overland Park from the muddy back of #9 and the darkening muddy back of #14. Gabe poured a bottled water down his front and Lee stripped him down to skivvies. Abbie counted and we all sang "Take Me out to the BAll Game." I tried to multi task by loading an order and running the boom in the one bay of the big house where it will presumably run unsupervised. Silly me...the hose stretched too thin and the boom stalled at the south end. Never mind; time's wasting; and I chanted my mantra as I shut the thing down: "Nothing will die before tomorrow."
Our choices? Who needs to stock their racks? Customers in Olathe, Lee's Summit, St.Joseph, Red Oak, Ankeny (IA), Lincoln, Omaha, Lawrence, Shenandoah, Tarkio. Can't get there, all those theres, tomorrow. Especially not and make it back to Deadman's to be loaded for Williams'.
We come to a tentative arrangement over a 3 egg omelet and a pre emptive glass of Bordeaux. I tell Blake: 'We haven't made it yet, so here's in case we don't.'

We can make a full schedule on Wednesday, but Thursday everything changes. Except for maintenance, i.e. watering, all hands are on deck to load Visitation's red, white, pink, violet, orange impatiens, red, white pink begonias, dusty miller, portulaca, red, white, blue salvia, verbena, red, white pink vinca, geraniums, sun ,shade and fern baskets, cosmos and zinnias. Whew!! The whole process is as intricately choreographed as a ballet: guys are chaffeured to the Penske rental truck place. Gals shelve the tall carts and decipher the loading order. Lee and Ann are crosses between sergeant majors and air traffic control. I am the proverbial finder of lost things....where is that perennial for the Garden shop? Which baskets combos are sun? Which are shade? Like the animals on the Ark, the baskets line up two by two. Except for the ferns. Trimmed and tailored for going to church, they are shelved on carts, ten per shelf. The carts sit in the driveways, looking like Cousin Its.

The first year, we finished around four. Matt brought Bluffs food over and we celebrated the accomplishment. Two years ago, we were still struggling to finish the last trucks way past dark. Nightmare, literally. Last year, we put as much work into Wednesday as we could....dead heading the geraniums and putting the handles on the little carriers; racking up the perennials. We pray for dry weather; we pray for overcast; we pray for gentle breezes. We pray the Visitation ladies pray for a beautiful day for their sale!

On Friday morning, long before the cock crows, long before Lee's dogs expect company, Ryan makes the turn around the driveway and starts the rumbling diesels. Lee makes coffee and groggy drivers arrive for a cup and a doughnut about 4 a.m. We divvy the trucks; I'll ride down with Blake, I hope, and be spared the anxiety of picking a parking spot in the school's confining driveway. While the school parent's in their tailored khakis and golf caps meet us with clipboards, the burly farmers of our bunch will chaperone the top heavy sodden carts of color down the lift gates. The parking area will be transformed into a Tournament of Roses palette of bloom. With lots of hands and lots of counting, the flowers for the Garden Shop and the main sale flats will all be in place by school time. The carts will be reloaded and we truckers will head north to a well earned Starbucks....

...and the next load of plants to Omaha, Lincoln, Red Oak, Maryville, Kansas City. After all, it is still just the third week of April!

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