Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Letter

Verbena Twister Pink. Click on this image to see a slide show of this week's Spec. Load.  
'Tis the season for Christmas letters. Not everyone I know is a fan but I enjoy the annual catch up with family & friends via the Christmas letter, sometimes there is a surprise but mostly just a warm community feeling... so here goes.

January 2013 is already a blur but we started the year with a few priorities: the Shade house extension was lost along the journey as was purchasing a fork lift, I don't think Mark will allow that to drift for too much longer. Credit due though, the nursery looks much smarter with display beds planted outside the office for the first time in years. We don't get many visitors but having fully developed plants on display certainly generates a lot of comment. Thanks Mark. The biggest challenge was Inventory management so we could tell customers we have run dry in a timely manner, not as the truck is leaving our gate.  This has been a massive project that is still not functioning properly but we are confident the last bugs are being ironed out and will be fully operational in the new year.  We also identified 3 things to stop doing: Sales to Chain Stores, Cash Van sales and Magic Square gardens.  Sadly after nearly 50 years dealing with Kmart our departure went completely unnoticed by Kmart and by us for that matter.  Taking the cash van of the road on Mondays was more problematic but I think we have kept our promise of maintaining Monday deliveries pretty well.  The Little Veggie Patch does fruit bin gardens really well.

March started with that exceptional hot spell.  I remember discussing the imminent end to hot weather at March Trade Day only to be hit with 2 solid weeks with temperatures above 30 Deg! That played merry hell with Pansy & Viola production, especially for the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. We had oceans of colour but not the quality we aim for. The RHSV's Great Victorian Basket competition was a roaring success in a huge newly designed space. Congratulations to Don & Jennifer Rickerby and their team of extraordinary volunteers, especially Kevin Moneghetti for design & construction.  The GVHBC will display around 450 baskets in March 2014!

Around the nursery Bryce went quite mad with 20mm Aggregate, I think we have emptied a quarry but the growing areas look fabulous and provide a much cleaner environment.  Bryce is also responsible for trials of new potting mixes, just though observation and asking a few probing questions.  Having lit that little fire we have made a number of changes to water holding capacity and fertilizer rates and there will be more in the new year.  There is no doubt our ability to grow consistently high quality pots and baskets has improved.

We have discovered a few plant varieties that look like staying for a while: Heuchera; Osteospermum, Argyranthemum, Gerbera Garvinea; Rosemary (especially Chef's Choice); Pelargonium (who knew?); Bracteantha, Digitalis, Spreading Vinca and Calibrachoa. I always looked at Calibrachoa as a poor Petunia substitute... have to eat humble pie fairly regularly actually.  There are a few old favourites that we will have to look into very carefully because they just haven't performed for a few years now, sadly that includes Petunia varieties and some presentations of Pansy.

I know not everyone is thrilled but our determination to grow in larger pot sizes but it only gets stronger.  Our no PGR (Plant Growth Regulator) policy ensures that our plants will grow out effectively in the garden but we also need a little more room for the plants to develop fully in the pot. In simple terms we choose plants that we like, that we can grow well and we put them into the most appropriate pot to show their full potential.  Oh yes, given time the pots will get bigger.

In Spring we experimented with a new label design for our My Vegie Garden punnet range.  This was a painful gestation as we argued the pros & cons and the best size and shape over what felt like months. Debate raged over 2 & 3mm variations. Guess what, the label has been a complete hit. Now we will roll it out to the rest of our metric punnet range, only problem is finding a design to keep our Great Scot range up to date with everything else we do.  We also released the Vasili's Favourites Vegie ranges in Spring, this was not such a great hit but we have learned some valuable lessons, possibly none more important than the need to keep trying new ideas.

Over the Winter I did a round of Garden Club talks and this year finally entered the 21st Century when I put together the Power Point Presentation. The regular talk on tips for getting the most out of seedlings has morphed into a history of Scotsburn Nurseries and the bedding plant industry in Melbourne... with tips on getting the best out of seedlings. I got so engrossed at one point I think I was going to be thrown out of home. The response has been very favourable and I hope to sit down with a couple of industry lions in the new year to get their perspectives so I can add depth to the presentation.

In late July Lisa planned a holiday for the first time in many years.  The night before heading off she rolled  her ankle and snapped her Achilles tendon!  I have to thank Shirley, Roxanne and Jessy who all stood up to help fill Lisa's remarkably large shoes for the next 12 weeks, right into the heart of Spring. Thanks also to Lisa soldiering on from home preparing advertising material and promotions.  Not forgetting Kaye who I had promised more office support this year, then I promptly walked out of the office.  Fortunately Karen has picked up our systems and processes (otherwise known as flying by the seat of your pants) very quickly. Late in Spring we said goodbye to Gill our delivery driver over the past two years, we wish him luck at Clyde Plant Nursery where he can develop his horticultural skills more fully.  I am very fortunate to work with a team of passionate, loyal and determined people; I can't thank everyone of the Scotsburn crew enough.

Thank you  for your support of Scotsburn Nurseries in 2013,  we wish you a joyous Christmas and a safe and prosperous 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Meet Garden Bloggers