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Royer’s delivers Mother’s Day flower and plant tips to Fox 43

Barry Spengler of Royer’s Flowers talks Mother’s Day with Fox 43’s Heather Warner.

Barry Spengler, Royer’s vice president of operations, has a simple message when it comes to Mother’s Day.
“The key,” he told Fox 43’s Heather Warner, “just don’t forget Mom. That’s bad.”
Barry offered a number of options, from one or two roses wrapped up to a mixed bouquet in a vase to porch plants such as gerbera daisies or calla lilies.
Potted plants want to be outside, he said, and require a lot of water.
“People under-water these,” he said. “They need a lot of water. I get a gallon jug, fill it all the way up. And I usually dump most of the gallon a day on it. All of the excess will run out. …
“And every once a week, I usually add the fertilizer to the jug and fill it.”
You can view the entire segment below.

Annual plants add beauty: 3 tips for taking care of them

Colorful flowering annual baskets and pots provide an easy and inexpensive way to increase the beauty and enjoyment of outside living areas.
Annual plants are available in a wide range of colors and varieties, offering something for everyone.
Care is simple. Just keep these things in mind:
• Choose plants suited to the light levels they’re growing in:

  • Sunny spots require plants that thrive in the sun, such as geraniums, petunias, marigolds, salvia, ageratum, alyssum and portulaca.
  • Plants that do better with partial shade are begonias, impatiens, fuchsia and coleus.

• Container plants drink lots of water. Check them daily.
• To keep the blooms coming all season, add a water-soluble fertilizer a couple of times each week when watering. Plants also can be encouraged to bloom and stay “bushy” by pinching off the spent blooms.

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. (
  • 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. (
  • 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)


Flowers help stem the morning blahs: Harvard study

Maybe it’s the long winter or the still-cold mornings, or just too much work and not enough sleep. There are any number of reasons why it can be tough to get at ’em in the morning.
When it comes to a pick-me-up, caffeine isn’t for all tastes. But everyone can start their days with flowers — and with good reason.
People are happier and more energetic after looking at flowers first thing in the morning, according to a behavioral study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The morning blahs, it turns out, is a real phenomenon, with positive moods — happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example — manifesting much later in the day,” said lead researcher Dr. Nancy Etcoff. “Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”

The final study results demonstrated that flowers affect people emotionally at home, causing them to feel less anxious and more compassionate. They even reported a boost of energy that lasted all day.
“What I find interesting is that by starting the day in a more positive mood, you are likely to transfer those happier feelings to others — it’s what is called mood contagion,” Etcoff said. “And, the kitchen is the place where families tend to gather in the morning — imagine how big a difference a better morning mood can make.”
To learn more about this study and ways to incorporate flowers into your kitchen, click here.

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.

Christmas in July: poinsettias take root

Roger Esbenshade, president of Esbenshade's Greenhouses Inc., with a poinsettia cutting and the pot it will grow in.
Roger Esbenshade, president of Esbenshade’s Greenhouses Inc.,
with a poinsettia cutting and the pot it will grow in.

Retailers and consumers might count down the number of shopping days left until the holidays. At Esbenshade’s Greenhouses Inc. in Lancaster County, it’s a calendar of growing days.
One of the 100 biggest greenhouse operations in the United States, family-owned Esbenshade’s is a significant grower of poinsettias. Royer’s Flowers & Gifts is one of Esbenshade’s biggest poinsettia customers, to the tune of 30,000 plants each year.
In order for Royer’s to have poinsettias to sell starting around Thanksgiving, Esbenshade’s has to start growing the traditional Christmas plants during the summer.
In fact, poinsettias account for 75 percent of Esbenshade’s summer workload and 15 to 20 percent of the company’s annual sales. Esbenshade’s sells poinsettias to customers throughout Pennsylvania and into surrounding states and sometimes as far away as Boston.
This helps to explain why Roger Esbenshade, the company’s president, has a young poinsettia spilled out on a desk in his air-conditioned office in mid-July, when the outside temperature is approaching 90 degrees.

He has been looking at the plant’s roots under a microscope, “to make sure nothing funny is going on.” Besides proper root development, he tests for levels of pH and fertilizer in the “growing medium,” a mixture of composted bark, peat and the mineral perlite, which appears as tiny white rocks.
“If you wait until the plant itself starts to show the problem, then it’s usually much wider spread and much more difficult to make a correction,” Esbenshade said.
His parents – Lamar and Nancy – founded the company in 1960. Today, Esbenshade and brothers Fred, Scott and Terry own and operate the wholesale business from a complex of buildings on Route 322 just north of Lititz. A sister (there are seven siblings in all) works part-time for the company.
Every week throughout most of the summer, Esbenshade’s receives poinsettia cuttings from three different suppliers. These cuttings are two and one-half inch stems that will become the hundreds of thousands of poinsettias that Esbenshade’s will nurture in its greenhouses.
The cuttings have no roots; those will come in short order but only after Esbenshade’s workers stick them into the bark-peat-perlite mixture in pots. (Esbenshade’s also grows starter plants for other growers; these roots develop in a foam cube). The plants will stay in these pots right up until they are delivered to Royer’s.
The pots are in Esbenshade’s “Gilbert” greenhouse, which is named in memory of an employee who died. They are lined up, row upon row, on tables and under automated misters.

A pinch to unleash potential

A cutting by itself is fragile: left in the sun for 20 minutes, Esbenshade said, it will die. Regular misting is necessary for the cuttings to sprout roots. A computer considers plant and air temperature, humidity, light intensity to determine each burst of mist for each table.
It takes four weeks for the plant roots to grow fully. At that point, Esbenshade’s “pinches” – snapping off the tip – the cutting to force lateral branch growth. Everywhere there is a leaf is the potential to grow a new stem. This potential is unleashed by the pinching.
“There’s a hormonal change in that plant that stimulates that growth,” Esbenshade said.
At up to 100 degrees, poinsettias will grow faster the higher the temperature. Above 100 degrees, growth tapers.
Red poinsettias are the traditional variety and account for 70 percent of the plants the company grows, although they come in many varieties and sizes. When asked what his favorite variety is, Esbenshade at first quipped:
“By December 25th, my personal favorite is an empty greenhouse.”
Really it’s the “marble star,” whose leaves (or bracts) feature a “bold pink center” and white edges, Esbenshade said.

Esbenshade’s follows strict growing schedules to ensure that it produces the highest-quality plants it can for Royer’s, which holds Esbenshade’s to exacting standards. What’s more, Royer’s is based just 15 miles away in Lebanon, which makes it easy for co-owners Mike Royer or Tom Royer to get a first-hand look at the crop.

Variety (some grow faster than others) and hoped-for size determine the growing schedule.
“If we want a plant that’s 30 inches tall, then we have to start that in June,” Esbenshade said. “If we want one that’s 8 inches tall, that doesn’t get started until August.”
It’s possible to force faster growth, but then the plant lacks the stem strength and big bracts that distinguish the Esbenshade’s plants from, say, the poinsettias found at big-box retailers.
“It has to look different,” Esbenshade said of his company’s poinsettia crop. “The average consumer has to recognize that it’s something substantially different. We don’t try to explain to them that it’s different, we grow something that they recognize is different.”

Mums the word year-round

Many of us decorate porches and patios with hardy mums in the fall. But a little bit of loving and some attention to the calendar can help you get the most out of your mums and even keep them blooming in a garden for years to come.
If you planted mums in the ground back in the fall, then the summer months are important in their growth cycle.

Pinching: By July 15, you should pinch the top growth back 1 to 2 inches. This will ensure that your mums bloom in the fall rather than during the summer.

Feeding: From spring through July, nourish your mums twice a month with an all-purpose garden fertilizer mixed in water. Stop feeding in August.
Controlling pests: Aphids are the most common pests that afflict garden mums. These are small soft-bodied insects about the size of a pinhead. They range in color from green to yellow to black. They make their livings by sucking the sap out of tender new growth. To control them, spray an all-purpose insecticide or insecticidal soap on the plants once a week for a couple of weeks. Take care not to spray plants in direct sun or when the temperature is above 90 degrees.

Now, if you are thinking about planting your potted mum for the first time, here are some steps to take:

• Be sure to water your potted mums daily as warm days will make them thirsty. At the same time, too much water can damage the roots; provide drainage in decorative pots or baskets.
• It’s best to plant the mums in October so their roots have time to grow before cold weather sets in.
• Once the mums are planted, water them thoroughly a couple of times each week through mid-November. This will encourage the roots to grow deeply. The deeper the roots, the stronger the plants will be.
• In late spring, cut the plants down 6 to 8 inches above the ground. This will give you bushy, compact plants with lots of flowers. As spring gives way to summer, follow the instructions above relative to feeding and pinching.

Here’s how to extend the life of your Easter blooms

Even after the Easter Bunny has visited and the last eggs are hunted, Easter plants will bring beauty and color into your home. In fact, you can make the flowers last a lot longer by following some easy steps.
What’s more, after your bulb plants – such as daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocus and narcissus – have finished blooming, you can transplant the bulbs into the ground and watch the flowers come up next year.
The key to making the flowers/blooms last longer – perhaps twice as long – is to keep the plants in a cool place, such as at night. This will stall the normal aging process, extending the life of the blooms.
While you’re sleeping, place the plants in your garage or out on your porch (but don’t let them freeze), and then bring them back inside your house in the morning. For smaller plants, such as a single-bloom hyacinth, you might even have room in your refrigerator.
Of course, it’s also important to keep the plants watered.
Once the blooms peak, let the plant die back into itself, nourishing the bulb. Keep the bulb in its pot and store in a cool, dark place. In early fall, separate the bulbs and plant them in your garden in anticipation of their blooming again next spring.

Getting hip to the hop: Cable-11 visits corporate complex for Easter

Leave the hiding to the Easter Bunny. We love showing off all of the Easter activity taking place this month at Royer’s.
Visiting our corporate complex in Lebanon today was Blue Ridge Cable 11 News of Ephrata, specifically reporter Peter Taraborelli and photographer John Hershey. They spoke about hyacinths, lilies, hydrangea and other flowers and plants of the season with Barry Spengler, Royer’s vice president of operations.

Forcing hyacinth bulbs for Easter

Did Easter sneak up on you this year? Being on March 31 [this post originated in 2013], it is earlier than usual.
As a florist, we don’t have the luxury of being surprised by the calendar. Planning and logistics are the lifeblood of our business; they are fundamental to giving our customers high-quality products and excellent service.
Easter is a great example of this.
While most flowers today are grown in South America, Royer’s continues to grow its own hyacinths. Forcing the bulbs (as this is called, essentially getting them to grow on our timetable), is a family tradition that dates back 50 years or more.
As with every holiday, timing is of the essence when it comes to Easter hyacinths.
The process actually began in June, when we ordered some 13,000 hyacinth bulbs from a wholesaler in Holland. In October, a two-person Royer’s team planted the bulbs in pots, which were placed in a refrigerated trailer (set at 40 degrees) at our corporate complex in Lebanon.
The goal was to get the bulbs to grow, but just a little bit. In December, when most people were running around getting ready for Christmas (Royer’s included!), the bulbs were sufficiently rooted such that we could lower the trailer temperature to 34 degrees. At that temperature, the bulbs are more or less in a state of suspended animation.
Soon after Valentine’s Day, we began to transfer the pots into a greenhouse. We gradually increased the temperature so as not to shock the bulbs and to mimic what occurs in nature as winter turns to spring.
The bulbs emerge from the trailer as small, yellowish plants just breaking through the soil. Within days, sunlight turns the plant green and it starts to grow. Soon, the flower blooms: pinks take a few days longer than blues and whites.
We have to be careful, though, because if the plants get too much indirect sun, they begin to stretch for light. In no time, they can get too tall and lanky – and customers won’t want them. Sometimes we have to cover them in black plastic to keep that from happening.
When Easter is early as it is this year, temperatures outside tend to be colder. As a result, it takes longer to “force” the bulbs. Of course, we know this going in and factor it into our schedule.
We want the hyacinths to reach 10 to 12 inches in height, at which point they are ready to be sold in pots and decorated baskets.
Don’t worry if Easter snuck up on you. Our stores will be ready when you are, filled with beautiful, colorful hyacinths and other Easter plants and arrangements.
Just as we planned it.