Thursday, November 20, 2008

Another trip down that dusty road

The end of an era.

The ground is covered in snow and it reminds me of the days, Carole and I spent together, not in Mexico, but in our own backyard greenhouse.

I was a plant manager in a large brass foundry, responsible for all Production, Carole was a sales order clerk in a huge shoe warehouse. We both got downsized with in two months of each other after 25 years. Both industries have since closed.

Our business since we left industry has been flowers. Hanging baskets, patio containers and bedding plants.

Here is how we got to that point in our lives.
We were driving down the road one day and seen a sign advertising a greenhouse for sale.
Carole said, “You always enjoyed your garden, why don’t you buy that greenhouse, give you something to do”. So! I did.

Sometimes, spur of the moment reactions come with little thought. What am I going to grow in a 100 foot long greenhouse? First things first, I had to remove it, and assemble it on my property. Damn! if I wasn’t energetic back then. We did all the work, electrics, fans, pumping system, furnaces and drip irrigation. I probably broke every building code in the book. All you really buy in a greenhouse is the metal hoops, then purchase plastic to close it all in.

Okay! So now I have a greenhouse; what now? Well I went and seen the fellow I bought it from, and asked for ideas. He said, “why not grow flowers, I have some extra trays of Impatient plugs, I will sell you”. Okay, “sold.” What do I do with them? “Put them in pots of soil, Silly, I will sell you some of that also”. Our first year growing was a blast; I started a way too early and heating the greenhouse with an old oil furnace, was frightful. I had a half a dozen nervous breakdowns and kicked the cat a few times. Of course, the better half seemed to be able to sleep through the night. She would say things like, “don’t worry, it will all work out and stop kicking the cat.” All did work out. Damn! I hate it when she is always right.

We put up three more greenhouses and had a wonderful time working together. Friends, use to enjoy coming out and helping to plant. Carole would put on a big meal and I would buy a case of beer, it was like a big party. We had a ball. Two of my very best friends died in the past couple of years. Good friends are hard to come by, I really miss them.
By this time, we were so experienced at planting, Carole and I could handle it by ourselves, but that fun time was gone.

Now with Carole having some serious health issues, it is time to give it up.
We stopped growing last year, but our daughter got into the business a half dozen years after we started, and is very successful. I always tease her, that she seen her old man make a couple of bucks and wanted a piece of the action. Actually! I could never have done as well, without her. She had the buying experience to acquire new varieties as they became available. Big companies don’t like to deal with small operations...
I could put my operation in the corner of hers.

One point I would like to make, growing is the easy part, marketing the product is the toughest. Quality is the key to success. People say we had the best.
I might as well take credit for something

Here are some pictures of what we do. Or should I say what we did.

Our greenhouses in winter

A distant view of the greenhouses in nicer weather.

Carole putting handles on pots. The heat is not turned on yet until we start planting

Here I am hanging large Moss pots.

Carole cleaning Geraniums.

Pots waiting to be planted.

Plants have grown ready for sale.

We grew a large variety of mixes, someone will always want a mix you may not have.

Get a load ready.

It is sales & shipping time got to load the truck. The most physical part of the business.

Here is that Moss pot you seen me hanging. It is finished and ready for sale.
A small example of our baskets.

Osteosperum Baskets were a big hit.

Petunia basket.

Petunia baskets are very showy.

Window boxes. growing these; they took up too much floor space and were hard to ship.

Begonia basket, this basket is small but they get beautiful.

Just what we wanted a customer. Hope she buys something.

My daughters greenhouse.

It is with sadness that we quit growing. Those wintery days in the greenhouse were therapy. Of course I could go work for my daughter, she grows a few baskets.


JoAnne in CT said...

that's beautiful, Doog!! Right up my alley - although I "do it myself" just for my yard baskets and deck planters. I love the mixes, they're just gorgeous! thanks for sharing!

Islaholic Trixie said...

Doogan...Always knew we had something in common!! I went to college, the first time, for Horticulture and worked in a few different green houses.
What beautiful plants you grew! Plants are definately great therapy. Have you sold the greenhouses or is your daughter taking them over? Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

Jamqueen said...

Thanks for sharing a little bit of your life --the flowers are gorgeous! My hsband Alan is the 3rd generation in his family business that is a brass foundry--one of the few left in the states. They are just trying to hang on until he & his cousin are ready to retire--not another generation to take over....

Life's a Beach! said...

Doog, what beautiful flowers! You and Carole really have green thumbs! It reminds me of the baskets I always had when we lived in Seattle! Down here in the desert, the inspiration has kind of left me. But I think I'll go out and buy some flowers today and spruce up the courtyard for Christmas! Thanks for the beautiful post Doogan!


Sue said...

Love the pictures and your story, and wish it didn't have to end for you and Carole. I agree that plants are great therapy - it was the first thing Miguel wanted to do when he got out of the hospital last year - visit his plants that he hadn't seen in over two weeks.

I never had the skill to put together beautiful baskets like you show there - it is a gift. I can almost smell the petunias in that one basket - the deep purple ones are my favorite. Thanks for sharing!

P.S. I'm originally from the Niagara/St Catharines area of Ontario, now living in Mexico.

jeanie said...

Fantastic post Doogie! I had no idea! What a great way to live!

Laura said...

What a great post! I loooove flowers.
I actually like to go hang out at a greenhouse near us, going there this weekend in fact.
I have to buy a pointsettia for my daughter's school Christmas show.
If I could do something else for living, it would be what you did :)
Trade ya a map business!

Vee said...

Doogan, that was a wonderful post. Thank you!

Wandie said...

What a wonderful post Doug. You had told me you were into gardening, but I had no idea what masters You and Carole were. Amazing!!

I will need some tips next spring, k?

I am taking on my Mom and Dad's garden. A little daunting, but they had a beautiful yard, and I can't imagine a stranger looking after it. That would just be wrong.

I am volunteering at our city greenhouse next week for a couple days. Hopefully, I will pick up some tips!!

Hope you and Carole, and Family are doing well.

Beautiful, stunning pictures and a wonderful story.

Thanks for sharing!

couzin frank said...

What proud parents you two must be!And what a great post. Thanks!~frank~

Doug (aka Doogan) said...

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. Very nice comments, I must say.

No Trixie! we have not sold the place but it is a consideration. My daughters has lots of land and the resource to add to their own business. My little operation would be a pain to her back side.