Pluggin' Away....................

Ok -- gardening friends and farmers, bear with me. I'm going to do some explanation early in this post. Often, when I do presentations, I talk about plugs. I have been talking "plugs" for 10 years now and I forget that many don't understand what I mean when I say "plugs".

"Plug" is a wholesale term for tiny plants that are "plugged" into the flats that you buy at garden centers. Plugs can come in trays of 125, 210, 375 anything include trays of over 800. Now that's tiny!!!!

OK -- on the left is Amazon Neon Duo Dianthus. (Love saying that name!!!!!) It was grown in a typical four-pack, known as a 1204. Twelve 4-packs in a flat. This is what most garden centers sell.

The middle plant is known as a plug -- it was grown in a 125 count plug tray. That happens to be Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan) Gloriosa Double.

The plant to the far right was grown in a 210 count plug tray-- it is Salvia Blue Bedder. It is a blue salvia -- perfect for bouquets and easily dried by hanging it upside down.

Here is another picture of the salvia when compared to a quarter. You can see how small they are.

I directly plant into my garden. I have no greenhouse (as much I want to claim Gwen's for my own!!!!!) so nothing gets "moved up" into larger containers. They go right into the ground. I try to order them so they will arrive at the proper planting time. But of course, I order in November so its nothing but a craps shoot!!!!!!

I don't use anything smaller than the 210 plug --- a 375 count tray would be roughly half the size. And that's too little to go directly into my garden.

So why use plugs?? First of all is the cost. The average flat in most greenhouse and garden centers sell between $12-$18, depending on what is growing in it. So if you assume a flat costs $15 and has 48 plants --- each plant sells for 31 cents. The salvia that I purchase was 19 cents per plug.

The other thing is quantity. I am a relatively small flower farmer. But I still need 150-250 of each plant I grow. So I want 200 white Rocket snapdragons...... not just 200 mixed colors.

So why purchase anything from a greenhouse/garden center? I buy from Gwen because she can germinate those items that 1) I can't get from a wholesaler 2) that I need smaller quantities.

For example --- I need eucalyptus in my garden. But I need 50-100 plants, not 375. So she raises them for me. I pay a little more but the plants don't go to waste and poor Honey isn't digging up more gardens!

A lot of our speciality cut flowers are not available at the average garden center. They are too tall -- they don't bloom until later in the summer so they aren't in their full glory at the garden center. Lisianthus is a prime example. I grow Echo, Cinderella and Mariachi lisianthus. Most of these get about 30" tall. They get leggy, entangled, and root-bound in a greenhouse. And unless you know how wonderful they are -- most customers don't buy leaves. They want flowers. And (this is an important lesson about lisianthus) once it is root-bound, it will never bloom.

Melanie asked what I was growing this year. Right now my answer is too much!!! In July -- I might say, not enough!!

So -- here is the list of a few of my favorites and some great things to try in your own garden.

Amazon Neon Duo Dianthus (bright bold magenta and purple dianthus)
Rocket Snapdragons (simply the gold standard for cut flowers)
Bells of Ireland
Eucalyptus (yes, you can grow it in Iowa -- its an annual that will be alive in November!)
Lisianthus (Without a doubt -- the most popular flower in my gardens after the lilies)
Benary Giant zinnia (highly mildew resistant and the largest bloom of almost any zinnia)
Jewels of Opar (great filler ..... I love this in bouquets)
Kiss-me-Over-the-Garden-Gate (and I do grow it over an antique garden gate ... old-fashioned -- aggressive --- Japanese beetles love it. I don't care about its problems. I still love it!)
Sweet peas (not long enough stems --- don't last long enough in a bouquet. Smell FANTASTIC!!! 'Nuff said!)
And finally for today .... Larkspur (annual delphinums.... what could be more pretty than a true blue flower?)

Ok -- there still are many many more that I grow. Lots of annuals -- lots of perennials. I talked two hours a couple of weeks ago and since we got kicked out(!!!!) of the Botanical Center -- it is obvious that I could go on and on.

So if I didn't bore you to death and you want to hear more .........let me know. Otherwise -- you can find me in my very rain-soaked garden today!!!!!


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