Back in December, heavy snow forced Vicky Weis from Rush Creek Growers to postpone her visit to our Plant Sale buying committee. We were like a bunch of kids being told there would be no trick-or-treating at Halloween.
After only a week’s delay, Vicky was with us, showing photos of the new and fun plants she and business partner Suzanne Baker had been scoping out during their trips to plant shows in Michigan and trial gardens in Ohio.
So it was a blast to visit the greenhouses of Rush Creek Growers in early February, even though it is, as Vicky said, the “messiest time of the year.” After being greeted by Aggie the collie and passing a quick inspection from the resident cats, we saw lots of small plants getting their start, as well as pallet after pallet loaded with bags of soilless mix, ready to be potted to nourish the seedlings that become the plants we sell.
I came away impressed with how much human ingenuity it takes to grow plants in a northern climate. And amazed at what they get done in 50,000 square feet of greenhouse space.
At Rush Creek, one of the growers could be digging into the tool box to adjust the heating system, or seeding “plugs,” or moving flats of just-sprouted seedlings, or transplanting the small seedling plugs into larger pots.
Rush Creek employs seven people year-round and 22 total during the busy season. Their staff members have backgrounds in fields like horticulture, farming and agronomy, but also ornithology, philosophy and social work.
As the growers head into spring, there will be hundreds of designer hanging baskets to create from individual plants. There’s watering. There’s compost tea to make and distribute to the hungry plants. There’s the constant movement of plants from one part of the greenhouse to another for temperature regulation.
Because the roof vents are opened to the outside air to balance the temperature, sparrows sometimes nest in the baskets, and butterflies come in. Aside from the welcome it gives to the great outdoors, this also means the plants are somewhat accustomed to outside air, and so are part of the way to being hardened off when you plant them in your garden.
In April, the greenhouses are literally packed to the rafters with plants. The hanging baskets that began in March are suspended above the benches that hold the flats of annuals and perennials you’ll see at our sale. Rush Creek specializes in growing the new and unusual, so you never know what you’ll find peeking out on their benches.
Likewise, we’re always excited to see the wonderful plants grown at Rush Creek as they arrive for the Friends School Plant Sale!