My annual planting season is in full swing. My cork board is filled with job cards-there is a lot of work to do. I do the design work-but that part is a fairly small part of the process. Finding and ordering plants is followed by an installation and cleanup. We like to check back fairly soon after a planting to be sure everything is growing ok.
It is a well known fact that only one person at a time can drive a bus. What goes into planning and planting a job is much like delivering a busload of people to a destination. A lot of seats on the bus are occupied by growers of perennials, annuals, tropical plants, herbs, and vegetables. I know them on a first name basis. I only ask for special help when I really need it. I try to order by the truckload. I have a lot of respect for people who grow plants for a living-it is not easy.
Some seats on the bus are for the people who plant. They get seats in first class. The most outstanding design on the planet means nothing if the installation is not first class. They know to water plants before they load them on a hot day. They will water again-any plant they bring back at the end of the day. They plant expertly, and quickly. They know which side of a plant should face forward. They know how to plant a rootball crooked, so a plant stands up straight. They know how to soak a planting through and through.
There are two seats on my bus for the people who supervise. They see to it that everyone is focused on a common goal. They make executive decisions on the spot when they are needed. They organize and direct every move. They all work together amazingly well-I can barely keep up, placing the plants. There is one seat for a runner-he delivers forgotten plants and materials to to the job. There is one seat on the bus for Monica. Every project has a job sheet detailing the scope of the work, the plant material, the hardgoods, and the time spent. She is really good at spotting what might be missing from a sheet.
There are several seats on the bus for me. Three days a week I shop the markets-between 5:30 and 6 am. I need to get in and out in a timely way, I go when the traffic is sparse. I am likely to run into other people who garden professionally; a few minutes may be spent socially, or in a discussion of a particular client that we have in common. Several other days a week I drive to this greenhouse or that one-to see what looks good. Then there is a seat I call the order desk. Plant numbers must be calculated, plants ordered, and a delivery coordinated. I direct the crew pulling material for a job. Sometimes I draw the planting scheme on a picture of a pot from a previous year. Sometimes I place the plants personally.
A truckload of plants provide a couple of days worth of material. Some jobs take a day or better; other days we may do three projects. In any event, I have a lot of projects swirling around in my head. I know instinctively when I see a plant that would work for a project-or a plant around which a project can be organized. Some plants I need I might have to pass on. Maybe there are not enough available, or they are not the quality I had hoped for. Selecting the plants is one job I cannot delegate.
Blue salvia has never particularly appealed to me; so much undistinguished foliage with not so many flowers. The Cathedral series is an intriguing one- it comes in a dark purple, white, lavender, and blue sky. The mix is really good looking, especially if you like subtle color. I signed up for 24 cases. We’ll see what comes of that decision. Tomorrow I will shop the market, and order another truckload that will get me through the weekend. It’s the time to plant the annual flowers.