Midwinter Moments in the Greenhouses

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Midwinter Moments in the Greenhouses

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru, Meet Our Staff

I wanted to do a blog to show what’s going on in midwinter at Powell Gardens. Sort of like the “Day in the Life” photographic journals. I thought I would start at the greenhouses so headed down to capture what was going on. It’s a bee hive of activity, producing plants for the 2013 season and all these images were taken within a half hour’s time of perusing our eight greenhouses.

Horticulturist in charge of greenhouse production Donna Covell and Senior Gardener Eric Perrette were discussing watering and germination details in Greenhouse #4.  With over 800 varieties of plants in production the needs of each is a bit different and some are quite tricky, requiring tedious procedures to make them grow properly.

Some seed is germinated with heat mats beneath, some without. Some need plastic domes over them for more warmth and humidity. Other seedling trays need shade so white Styrofoam is placed over their trays. Pests and pathogens must be carefully monitored daily, any outbreak of mildew,  for example, would be disastrous. Careful and proper watering is key to success.

Greenhouse #4 is our little nursery and it always fills my soul with joy to see the emerging seeds for a new season of flowers. All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today….

Caitlin Bailey, Senior Gardener of the Island Garden, is starting seed for specialty plants that will go into the Island Garden’s living wall. We get seed from the North American Rock Garden Society’s seed exchange, which arrived yesterday. Caitlin is watering in a new batch with our gentle mist nozzle used solely to carefully water in tiny seeds.

Volunteers are an important component of our greenhouse production. Here Duane Nelson and Caroline Davidson are transplanting seedlings. Plants are germinated in tiny 288 plug trays but need to be grown in larger containers to reach blooming size. In just eight weeks many of these plants will be ready for spring planting outdoors.

Caroline and Duane are somewhat hidden behind carts where they put their freshly transplanted flats. These are then easily wheeled into the appropriate greenhouse. The cart in the foreground has all the information on all the seed including each one’s sow date and the date gardeners throughout Powell Gardens and the Kauffman Memorial Garden need a finished blooming plant.  YES, it’s complicated and Donna does a phenomenal job of keeping track of nearly 1,000 varieties.

Not all plants are grown from seed and here Gardener Penny Hudson is “sticking” cuttings to grow coleus for our “Living Room” conservatory display, which will open in the Visitor Center’s conservatory in March. Penny is in greenhouse #5 where we have many stock plants we use to take our own cuttings from.

Penny dips cuttings in rooting hormone to facilitate rooting. These probably will not be transplanted as we want them as small plug-sized plants when we use them in the living room display — where plants will literally make our living room rugs, furniture and topiaries come alive as a tapestry of plants.

Kellyn Register, Gardener Heartland Harvest Garden greenhouse production, is spraying water on our extensive banana collection. Why? It’s an organic way to control spider mites that thrive in dry conditions. All production of plants for the Heartland Harvest Garden is done with organic fertilizers and pest control.

I believe we have close to 20 cultivars of bananas in Greenhouse #8 where we keep the non-hardy edible stock plants for the Heartland Harvest Garden.

In Greenhouse #1 we have stock plants from desert, Mediterranean and warm temperate climates so this is where we house our succulent collections. Here you can see hypertufa containers filled with succulents which is currently a very popular and a water wise gardening style.

Here’s a better look of our succulent collection, most of which will go out for summer display in the Visitor Center terrace beds next summer as part of the “Nature Connects” LEGO brick sculpture exhibit. You can see I just missed Caitlin who was making new hypertufa containers (see the tarp and concrete bag in the foreground). You can see newly formed containers drying under the bench wrapped in plastic.

Jesse Stauffer-Baum is our Senior Gardener in charge of plant collections. Here he is working with our orchid collection in Greenhouse #2. The orchids should be in peak bloom this spring and will be shown during the living room display. Greenhouse #2 houses our tropical plants–those plants that like it warm and humid all winter too!

So that’s a quick look at what is going on at Powell Gardens’ greenhouses in the middle of January. The days are getting longer and production for spring is ramping up. We usually try to plant our first hardy spring flowers out in mid to late March and that is fast approaching!