Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lakewood Greenhouse Tour by Late Bloomer

Tuesday May 12

A dozen Master Gardeners gathered at the Lakewood city greenhouse on a warm spring morning made warmer by being in the greenhouse. The fans were turned off so that we could hear manager Mollie Fendley introduce us to our surroundings, which quickly became hot and humid. The greenhouse is very spacious and filled with vigorous plants, like an acre of spring green.

Mollie does not spray for insects indoors, and the only chemical concession make is the addition of a 21-18-18 fertilizer, mechanically mixed with water, for the hand watering of the annual plants. Annuals and perennials are grown from seed here. Starting in July, Mollie starts mums for autumn plantings, and poinsettias for the holidays. The latter are used in city offices and taken home during holiday break.

At the potting bench we are shown the artificial soil (a commercial potting mix) used in the greenhouse. Mollie has discovered that there are fewer problems with rot and damp-off if she mixed it 50/50 with squeegee,
a kind of pea gravel/ sand mix. The formulation is useful for the perennials, especially the more dry-tolerant xeric types. Annuals, perennials, and some shrubs are grown here for use in numerous Lakewood parks.

Mollie keeps a scrapbook of beautiful plantings throughout the city, and discussed changes being made, such as incorporating more water-wise and xeric plantings in the gardens. Lakewood's gem of xeric gardens is at Kendrick Lake park where low hills of plantings are grouped in different growing systems, and all plants labeled for viewer education.

In the greenhouse is a long table of alpine specimens being grown for a new display there. In addition to the usual annuals, and some very unusual and newly discovered perennials, the greenhouse is producing vegetable plants
which are for the employees and for a garden on premises for adding something special to the usual lunch fare of the workers.

As we headed outdoors, we were introduced to Greg Foreman
who is Mollie's new boss, and the Horticulture supervisor for Lakewood. He showed us a stash of conifers which has been given to the city by a homeowner who had changed his mind about a landscaping project. The workers will be keeping the potted trees alive and well before deciding what to do with them.

There is a fairly large structure next to the greenhouse that is used as a cold frame. It is like a small greenhouse, but has only ventilation (no heating or cooling) and is used primarily for cacti.
Also outside are several raised beds
where the viability of new plants is studied before their use in public beds. A discussion about the annual plant sale ensued, probably because this area of the yard bore no resemblance to the mob scene on May 2nd when they sold out in the first two hours to record crowds. Next year's sale will be planned differently to allow for the increased interest, and for efficient payment for purchases. Mollie is open to suggestions.

Thanks to our hosts for an informative tour, and to Heather for arranging the opportunity. Mollie and Greg both commented that we were virtually the first group of adults to tour the facility, and she was pleased with the enthusiasm and knowledge of the Master Gardeners. As for your reporter, I wish there were a way for the city to get around its hiring policies that make volunteering here impossible.