Twixwood Blog #20

And so, as they say, and to use the passive tense, errors were made in the last blog, #19.  The aforementioned Intrinsic introduction: Rudbeckia x. ‘Glitters Like Gold’ PPAF is in our collection to trial, however it is not for us to propagate for a couple more years as it is an exclusive with another liner grower of major significance.  Last week I was unaware and this week I am aware.  We have a tendency to obey the laws and so we will be carefully following those rules.

This time of the year it is fun for us groundcover growers to walk around or to drive around and look at the twenty-one listed varieties of echinaceas that we have in full bloom.  The heucheras, another many-varietied plant, is, likewise, in full color.  Groundcover people are used to looking at a field of green with slight variations in texture.  The reason our perennials are in full bloom now is because we have found that if we put these plants under double poly and sometimes with minimum heat all winter they will survive the experience.  We did not have enough heated space a few years ago and thus many did not survive the winter.  So, they bloom early and are very colorful.  They are also very easy to appreciate because us older portlier people do not have to bend over to look at the flowers because they have stretched and are really tall under our ideal over-wintering conditions of poly, heat, and closely packed spacing.

The problem is how to sell these.  They kind of flop over when being pulled for shipping and then some of our discerning and very picky customers whine and complain and then we trim them back and then they do not have blooms for a month or so and there is an whole another round of whining and complaining.  We have two choices as to how to deal with this.  The first option is to convince our customers—who are mostly landscapers these days—that what they are installing is roots and crowns.  The cut-back plants will handle easily because the flower stalks (scapes to the cognoscenti) will not be broken and flopped over.  Then the landscaper can practice his or her verbal skills by expansively going on and on about how fantastic the drift of blooming echinaceas will look next year and how happy the customer will be.  Mostly the customer will be happy because they will have spent the previous year worrying about getting lied to and cheated and so the appreciation of the profusion of flowers will be all the more psychologically gratifying.

On the outside chance that we cannot convince our customers that they are doing their customers a favor by planting freshly cut-back perennials the back-up plan is for us to hire a skilled person who is able to intuit when sales will be and to whom so that the perennials can be cut back and spaced all during the growing season and there will be just enough good plants at any one time so that we do not miss a sale.  The problem there is that I will need to hone my interviewing skills so that we will be able to find and hire a person of that level of intelligence, with that degree of judgement, and with extraordinarily good prognostication skills.  Now then, I am getting better at interviewing and after last year I can now figure out the main indicia of a crystal meth user.  I am no longer looking for someone with a lot of enthusiastic energy and rotten teeth.

In fact, I am thinking that if I can find a person with the skills and temperament to be good at caring for hundreds of thousands of perennial gallons all the while supervising the crew and interacting with the sales staff which is needed to gather the relevant information that I will then make that person general manager and retire again.  Of course, we will be right back where we started, without someone to trim and space the perennials.  I almost forgot the third option which is to become a believer in reincarnation so that I can come back in my new life with an easier occupation.  I will keep you informed on how that works out unless I come back as a frog and can neither talk nor write.

What we have this time of the year in the perennial container business is the problem of the inventory people and the sales people.  The inventory people are charged with walking the poly houses to do cycle counts and at the same time to make notes that go into the computer as to the salability of the plants.  The inventory people are trained to mark down long stretched out plants or recently cut back plants as unsalable.  The sales staff can only go by what the computer says.  Thus, we keep missing sales opportunities.  And then I have psychological problems.  The alternative is to ship ugly plants and then to haul them back to be re-stocked by a demoralized shipping staff.

Dianne and I are aware of the personnel requirements for a smooth running ethical nursery.  We are also working under the handicap of inheriting, some four years ago, a nursery with well-thinned out ranks, mostly at the mid-level manager or cadre level.  We are busily putting together a team.  We have not completed that process.  You, the customer, can assist by sending us good well-trained workers that you may know who are easy to get along with and who have few vices.  We will wonder for a few minutes why anyone would be sending us such an ideal worker, but that thought will be fleeting because I am one of the most optimistic people ever.