Now booking: Phone consultations for new flower growers/designers. Get YOUR questions answered and learn less stuff the hard way.
How do you organize and track the progress of each client through your creative business pipeline? This winter, I spent some time examining our own client management system and comparing it to the “ready” products on the market like Honeybook, 17hats, Ularas, and Details. Read on for my notes and conclusions.
Raffle WINNER: Mikaela Anneser
It was zero Farenheit this morning when I took my daughter to school. I’m sure that sounds pretty cold and miserable to a lot of folks, but we brace ourselves for the -25F mornings. Last year, Christmas was shrouded by some early frosty temps in the -20s. I hope we don’t go down that far early again this year. That’s January weather!
Anyhow- few things sound nicer to me than getting cozy with a cup of tea and making some holiday decorations when the weather is tough. I sell my handmade wreaths at a local farm store (Sugarhouse Creamery) that offers goods when the farmers’ markets end in October. They have good foot traffic and are closer to Lake Placid than we are.
I delight in seeing all the different kinds of wreaths that flood Instagram this time of year. If you want some quick inspiration, check out Thomas Bloom Flowers on Instagram for year-round ideas. I love me a good wreath in the spring, summer, and fall, too!
A copy of The Wreath Recipe Book is included in our giveaway this time. It is a lovely how-to for wreaths all year-long. I also have a sweet mug, a ‘Holiday’ tea tin from Harney and Sons, and samples of their new Athletea(s) that were designed by local entrepreneur, Mara Smith, for active people. They help with performance and recovery hydration. And they work great. (and this is not sponsored!) You can check them out or order your own here! I see that Harney & Sons is offering some online holiday discounts, too— yea!
Stay warm out there folks. Happy holidays.
So here is a little peak behind the scenes. Warning- it isn’t glamorous. This is farm living, folks! I feel a little like I’m putting my underwear out there for everyone to see. This set up is all function, so read on if that is your kind of thing. In the summer, we store our cut flowers in a modified CarryAll trailer. It is about 5x5x8ft - the sort of small trailer you can pull behind a truck. We’re quickly outgrowing the space, but it served us well the first few years.
During my first season, the trailer served 2 purposes. It was our walk-in cooler and my delivery vehicle for large orders and farmers market goods. I pulled it behind our family SUV. Now that I have a delivery van, the cooler sits semi-permanently on our property and acts as temperature-controlled storage (a “walk-in cooler”) all the time.
In the summer, a Coolbot-regulated window air conditioner and spray foam insulation keep everything cool- down to 34 degrees if we want. My challenge in the winter is to maintain the same sort of temperatures in the cooler. In the Adirondacks, that means my focus has to turn from cooling to heating- but not too much heating!
I’m investing this season in figuring out how to force tulip bulbs so that I can provide customers with flowers during the darker, colder months of the year. Emily Von Trapp’s workshop provided the background info. and support I needed to get started. The next step has been figuring out how to make my property’s limited infrastructure work for the job at hand. I need to be able to keep my bulbs around 40 degrees until I want to warm them up and force them to bloom - in my cellar of all places! With Emily’s help, I now have a plan that should work.
Anyhow. I first attempted to prevent the cooler from getting too cold by putting a very small space heater inside set at the lowest setting. Even at that setting it ran up temperatures that were too high. Next, I considered moving all the crates of bulbs to my cellar during the coldest nights. After shuffling a few around, I realized there had to be a better way.
A quick google search for, I think it was, “heater to keep things from freezing” turned up a suggestion in a forum somewhere for the Thermo Cube. It’s an outlet plug that turns devices of up to 120 volts on and off when a minimum temperature around 35 degrees Fahrenheit is reached and a maximum around 45 degrees is reached. That range is pretty close to perfect for tulip rooting/cold storage. Some folks use them in their home with lights attached so that neighbors or house sitters will be alerted to cold temps and possible freezing pipes when they are away on vacation. Others rig them up in chicken coops or small animal enclosures to provide warmth or prevent frozen water bowls during the winter. I picked mine up at a Tractor Supply Store. You can also buy them online. The Thermo Cube is a “thermostatically-controlled outlet,” in case you decide to shop around. There are other, more expensive and more precise options out there, too.
Right now, a Thermo Cube is giving me cool root cellar space that I wouldn’t otherwise have at minimal cost (they run about $15) + a small ceramic heater. Why bother with managing this relatively small space in the winter? Well- by my count, I can fit about 55 crates of planted tulip bulbs in there for their necessary chilling/rooting period. That’s about 3,575 tulips if I decided to max out the space next season. And that still allows for some ventilation aisles around and through the rows of crates- which is really important.
Other things I keep in the cooler to keep the environment healthy: A small window fan for circulation, a thermometer for monitoring the space (I check every couple days), and a battery powered LED light because there is no internal light.
Here are photos of the planted crates in the cooler and one bulb- pulled up so you can see the root mat forming:
My goal is to have tulips blooming for Valentine’s day and then extend their season as long as possible, instead of working to manage a huge rush of blooms that comes in about a two week span when tulips are all planted the same way and affected by the same environmental factors. We felt that last year. It was beautiful. But it was a rush, and we had tulips everywhere. My cooler was packed, and we were shuffling flowers in and out of the cellar, too, until we could sell enough Mother’s Day weekend to get organized again.
Like most of my work in farming, this feels like a big experiment. But, it is also one that can be performed on a small scale if you’re willing to do some research into forcing tulips and figure out how your own set up might work. —And I just have to share another little plug for Emily Von Trapp’s tulip forcing workshop over in Waitsfield, Vermont- because she is amazing and so is that program. She’s the queen of tulips in my mind - with about 80,000 tulip bulbs in the works this winter and spring. Follow Emily on Instagram this winter, and you’ll see what I mean.
Questions? Comments? Please share your thoughts via the comment window below.
Thanks for reading,
It feels a little special/spiritual to use the word “offering” in the title of this post, but I think fellow dahlia lovers know why that word seems right.
Dahlias are special. You mother them through the season and, in the fall, you are blessed with a harvest of their multiplied tubers. Its pretty amazing to pull up that first plant in October and see the extra reward, as if enjoying their flowers all summer wasn’t already enough, right?!
Again, we’re sharing our excess dahlia tubers in my online shop. We have a number of wonderful and lesser-known varieties to sell. I’ve received a few requests from folks who are getting excited and are eager to know what will be for sale. Here is our list and the shopping link! I’m also excited to be able to offer these tubers at the lowest or close to the lowest retail prices you will find. I did some research and digging. I hope I’m able to help more of you grow more flowers.
The shop descriptions include a plant-to-tuber ratio (so you can see which types will be more likely to make more tubers for you), notes on which varieties bloomed first, who bounced back from over heating in our greenhouse best, which ones produced lots of blooms and what their growth habits looked like, etc. I’m a bit of nerd regarding the info., so I’ll share it best I can!
Thinking about planting dahlias for wedding or event work? Or maybe for your own special day? Dahlias bloom in late summer and early fall before frost. Ours bloom reliably from August to October here in the North Country (zone 4).
So here we go.
2019 Dahlia Tuber Varieties for Sale
What goes into that perfect stem of bleached greenery? Take a peek behind the scenes….