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Made in the shade: controlling water and sunlight to improve plant quality

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To understand how flower growing has changed in the past four decades, consider 1, 7 and 9.

Those numbers identify the three remaining greenhouses at Royer’s corporate complex in Lebanon. As the breaks in number sequencing suggest, Royer’s had more greenhouses back when we grew our own flowers – nine total at the corporate complex and six more nearby on Colebrook Road.

However, a perfect storm occurred in the 1970s: An oil embargo made it prohibitively expensive for Royer’s and other florists to heat their greenhouses, while Bogota, Colombia was found to offer ideal temperatures and sunlight for growing flowers. In the intervening years, most flower growing has shifted to South America.

Today, as Tom Royer, senior vice president and COO, pointed out, Royer’s isn’t a grower but rather a holder of plants. That is, the company buys from growers both inside and outside the United States. Those plants and flowers are delivered to the corporate complex, where they reside before being distributed to Royer’s 16 stores in seven counties.

Much of the “holding” occurs in the three greenhouses. Two of them – numbers 1 and 7 – are the beneficiaries of substantial new investments in equipment designed to improve plant quality and operating efficiency.

Turn of a timer, flip of a switch

Specifically, we more than doubled our flood table capacity (Royer’s got its first flood tables in 1999) for automatic plant watering and installed a shading system that can control the amount of sunlight with the flip of a switch.

Each flood table has its own water reservoir. Once per day, we turn on a timer that floods the table for typically 15 minutes but longer if external conditions warrant. The plants, lined up in rows, drink through openings in the bottom of their containers.

In other words, a worker doesn’t have to tend to each plant individually, a time-consuming proposition considering the hundreds of containers.

“Now I can water all these plants in 15 minutes,” Tom said, “whereas it would take somebody two or three hours to do that day after day after day.”

Conserving water

The reduced labor also will improve quality, as watering won’t ever have to be sacrificed for the sake of other time demands. (In some cases, watering from above can cause damage, such as stains on violet petals.)

Of course, not all plants need the same amount of water.

“Just like people, they drink different, they eat different,” Tom said. Reflecting those differences, Royer’s separates plants by type (all violets on one bench, for instance) or at least by pot size and waters them accordingly.

Water that isn’t absorbed by the plants goes back into each table’s reservoir so it can be conserved and reused.

Another greenhouse variable is sunlight. In greenhouse 7, which holds blooming plants, a system of cables and pulleys operates the fabric shade cloths. By controlling the amount of sunlight, Royer’s can maintain an internal temperature of 75 degrees.

“If these shade cloths weren’t on here,” Tom noted on a warm, sunny day in early October, “it would be a lot hotter in here.”

Tom said the expenditure on flood tables and the shade system are the price of doing right by customers.

“It’s an investment in the future,” he said. “It’s worth it to me to do that because long term I’m going to have better product. It’s going to be taken care of properly. It will grow better, too.”

OUR ANNUAL ROSE SALE RETURNS MAY 16-JUNE 16

Roses are most closely associated with Valentine’s Day, but they are available year-round.

They’re a particularly good value in June thanks to the natural rose growing cycle, as evidenced by Royer’s annual rose sale, which coincides with National Rose Month in June.

This year’s sale runs May 16-June 16 with specials including:

  • Three roses added to any arrangement for $4;
  • One-dozen loose red, yellow, pink or rainbow roses for $15.99;
  • Two-dozen premium rose arrangement for $69.99 (normally $89.99).

A rose farm typically harvests its crop every six to eight weeks: conveniently, after the Valentine’s Day harvest comes the one for Mother’s Day. But while there’s another big crop of roses in late spring, there is not a corresponding holiday to absorb all those flowers.

Our rose sale taps into that abundant availability, which makes roses less expensive for us and, by extension, for you, our customers.

Royer’s primary rose variety is called Freedom, which makes a big impression with its deep color, size (flowers range from 5 to 7 centimeters across), and long vase life.

No matter the variety, roses have similar characteristics. However, care requirements can differ whether the roses arrive in a vase, loose or in a box, as these care tips explain.

Of course, with our annual rose sale, it’s a great time to give roses as a gift to someone else or to treat yourself.

Revive your roses with these easy steps

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Even when handled with great care, the heads of your beautiful roses could drop over within a few days of receiving a bouquet.

It’s not that the flowers are old. Rather, it’s likely that an air bubble got stuck in the stem, preventing water from getting in.

With these easy steps, you can bring the roses back to a robust state:

1. Fill a sink with 2 inches of water;

2. Remove the roses from their vase and submerge the stems in water;

3. While they are submerged, cut the stems (scissors are fine) approximately 2 inches from the bottom. A diagonal cut is best as it provides the most surface area for water to get in;

4. Allow the stems to soak in the water for an hour.

When you place the roses back in the vase, they should be in good shape once again. Be sure to add the plant food that your florist should have provided.

How to care for fresh-cut roses

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We’re on a mission to turn Valentine’s Day into Valentine’s Week.

No, we’re not talking about a loved one having to send you flowers for seven days in a row. Rather, we want to make sure that you get a week’s worth of enjoyment out of those beautiful fresh-cut roses you just received.

With just a little bit of effort on your part, high-quality roses from your local florist should open and last at least five days, and many times for seven days or more.

If you receive roses in a vase

  • They will use more water than you think, so add water pretty much daily.
  • If after five days or so the water is getting pretty dirty, pull the roses out, re-cut the stems and put them back in the vase with fresh water. Add a packet of floral preservative, available from your florist.
  • If the water is relatively clean, it is best to leave it alone as it will have some preservative left in it.

If you receive roses loose or in a box

  • If the roses came with tubes on the stems, remove the tubes and re-cut the stems about 1 inch from the bottom. It is best to cut at an angle, which creates more surface area for water intake.
  • Place the roses in a vase with water that is room temperature to a little warm.
  • Add floral preservative to the water; you should have received a packet with the delivery.
  • Only change the water if it becomes noticeably dirty.

If your roses don’t begin to open

  • Within a day or two, your roses should begin to open. If they don’t, remove them from the vase, re-cut the stems (at an angle), and return them to the vase.
  • If they still do not begin to open, re-cut the stems but this time also float the flowers in a bath of water for an hour or two to rehydrate them. Then return them to the vase. Most times, this will bring the roses around.

Keep them cool

  • Keep roses away from a heat source, such as a vent or direct sunlight.
  • When they aren’t on display, or while you’re sleeping, you can even place the roses in an unheated room or garage.

Here’s to a Happy Valentine’s Day or, better yet, Valentine’s Week.

5 things you should know about caring for annual plants

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So you bought annual plants in a container at your local florist, garden center or home-improvement store.

Annual plants – such as petunias, geraniums and begonias that complete their life cycles in one year – pose perennial challenges once you bring them home.

Here are five things you should know about caring for your annuals:

1. You have to add nutrients: Your plant didn’t come in nutrient-rich soil. Rather, it’s a potting mix that includes peat moss. This mixture is inert, meaning that it doesn’t contain the nutrients found in soil. So you have to add the nutrients by applying fertilizer on a regular basis.

2. Fertilizer is soluble, so you have to keep adding it: Regular watering of your annual plants will wash out the added nutrients if the container has drainage holes on the bottom.

3. Don’t add too much fertilizer: One of the ingredients in fertilizer is salt. Too much fertilizer – and with it, too much salt – can damage plant roots. The salt in the fertilizer will remove whatever moisture is left in the roots and burn them.

4. Cut the amount in half: Whatever dosage the fertilizer manufacturer recommends, consider cutting the amount in half and fertilizing every time you water. This way you have less of a chance of burning the roots, and your plant gets a continual supply of nutrients rather than peaks and valleys.

5. Give them a pinch: Remove the old blooms and pinch a plant’s tips, which will force out new growth. An occasional light trim will keep a plant bushy and blooming.

With proper care, your annual plants will bloom beautifully for you this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the lily became a symbol of Easter and other floral facts about the holiday

Photo: Matt H. Wade
Photo: Matt H. Wade

Numerous accounts identify her as Mrs. Thomas Sargent, a resident of Philadelphia who visited Bermuda in the 1880s. Smitten by the lilies she saw there, she brought lily bulbs home with her.

She gave some of them to a local nurseryman named William Harris, “who began growing them, forcing them into spring bloom, and selling to other florists,” writes Leonard Perry, an extension professor at the University of Vermont. “Many began buying this flower for Easter, as they do today, with it symbolizing the Resurrection.”

“Forcing” bulbs – as we described in this post about hyacinths – is the means by which light and temperature can be manipulated in order to control the rate at which a plant grows. In most parts of the United States, lilies naturally would bloom in the summer – weeks after Easter.

Some other facts about Easter lilies:

  • Flowering and green houseplants (46 percent) account for the biggest chunk of Easter/Passover floral sales. Lilies (52 percent) account for most flowering houseplant sales. (aboutflowers.com)
  • Lilies are considered highly toxic to cats. The Society of American Florists recommends keeping lilies out of the reach of cats as ingesting even small amounts of the plant can cause kidney failure. Lilies do not pose a problem for other pets or humans. (aboutflowers.com)
  • In the home, Easter lilies prefer moderately cool temperatures (recommended 60 to 65 degrees during the day, slightly cooler at night). They thrive near a window in bright, indirect natural daylight. (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)
  • Pennsylvania is among the states that produce the most potted Easter lilies. (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 easy ways to get a jump on spring

The days are getting longer, the sun is getting brighter, and everyone is looking to shake off cabin fever. Spring is almost here, but you can get a jump on the season by bringing bright color and natural beauty into your home.

Here are some easy and cost-effective ideas to get you started:

1. Blooms: Nothing says spring quite like flowering plants. Violets, begonia, kalanchoe, cyclamen and Phaleonopsis orchids are all easy care and just need a home near a bright window for cheerful blooms over an extended period.

Bulb plants such as hyacinths, daffodils and tulips offer an added bonus. In the fall, you can plant the bulbs outside so that they deliver a splash of color next spring.

2. Think green: Green foliage plants add oxygen and humidity back into the air that we breathe and remove some impurities. Rejuvenate and dust off your houseplants. Better yet, pick up a new plant to replace one or two that are tired or to fill a bare corner or tabletop. Add a new basket or ceramic pot cover to add color and enhance your décor.

3. Common scents: Candles aren’t just for the fall and winter holiday seasons any more. Vanilla and lavender are two of the most popular scents, but you’ll find plenty of fresh, clean fragrances and styles of candles that have increased in popularity and are perfect for year-round use. Try a fresh linen or spring floral scent.

4. Bring the outdoors in: Trees and shrubs are just starting to bud. Trim a few branches and bring the outdoors inside to force open the blooms in a vase. Some good choices are forsythia, pussy willow and flowering cherry or crabapple stems, each of which produces colorful blooms.

Becoming more popular are curly willow and red twig dogwood branches. Although these branches do not have visible flowers, they look great in a vase and give texture when you add a few fresh-cut flowers. When you’re at the florist, be sure to pick up floral preservative to add to the water.

5. Front and center: Don’t forget about the front door and porch. Hang branches or a nice door piece for instant spring. Bulb plants, pansies and primrose all do well on a porch or patio. You may have to cover them or bring them inside overnight in case of frost or low temperatures. A cheerful front door will put a smile on your face and on those of your neighbors.

6. Treat yourself: Studies show that flowers are a great weapon against the morning blahs, boost energy and workplace productivity, and improve emotional health. So pick up a mixed handful, a weekly special or even just a few loose stems of your favorites.

Use hairspray to preserve your holiday wreath

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A natural Christmas tree eventually loses its needles, but giving it daily drinks of water will dramatically slow the process.

Unfortunately, you can’t do the same with a natural Christmas wreath.

But here’s the next-best thing: seal in the wreath’s moisture using hairspray, which acts like glue and holds the needles on.

To avoid any messes, do the spraying before you hang the wreath on a door, window or wall.

The result will be a wreath that looks shiny, green and full throughout the holiday season.

 

 

National Poinsettia Day is Dec. 12 and other facts about the most popular holiday plant

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We typically think of the North Pole when it comes to Christmas, but the most popular holiday plant originates with our neighbor to the south.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

In fact, Poinsett’s death in 1851 is commemorated every Dec. 12 as National Poinsettia Day.

Some other facts:

  • The colored parts of poinsettias aren’t flowers but bracts (leaves).
  • Poinsettias have been called the lobster flower and flame leaf flower.
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous, to humans or pets.
    • An Ohio State study found that a 50-pound child who ate 500 bracts (leaves) might have a slight tummy ache.
  • Ninety percent of all poinsettias are exported from the United States.

Sources: www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/poinsettia

 

We talk turkey and other Thanksgiving ideas on Fox 43

If you’re Fox 43 Morning News and you want to talk about Thanksgiving flower and gift trends, you know that Barry Spengler is happy to oblige.

Barry, Royer’s vice president of operations and a regular guest on Fox 43, shared ideas for centerpieces, giftware and hostess gifts with Heather Warner. You can view the segment by clicking here.

Photos from Barry’s appearance:

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