- Kenyon Growers Updates
- October 11, 2010
- 3 Comments
Upon entering Cal Poly State University in the fall of 1979, I had resigned myself to the fact I could not survive a career as an artist.
I was a decent painter but not good enough to sell my work. I chose landscaping to utilize my meager art talent and my fascination with plants. At Poly I would learn the skills through landscape design to one day go out and make a living selling cut floral products.
One of my favorite classes was soil science. This understanding of what soil is and the many complexities of it is utilized everyday in growing plants. “Soils”allowed me to understand chemistry and the relationships this plays in growing. Irrigation, fertilization, pH and soil structure all relate to what plants need to be healthy.
At the farm, we use tremendous amounts of organic material
Usually in the form composted manures and vegetation. We recycle our branch waste, weeds and other debris to reinvigorate and nourish the soil. This constant application of compost gives our soil the ability to hold water for access by plant roots, provide nutrient value, keep pH levels optimum for nutrient uptake, and make our clay soils light and airy. This science understanding was invaluable at Poly.
I took 4 quarters of Plant Materials; a wide range of ornamental plant identification. These classes were instrumental later in my selection of plants I deemed to be fabulous as cut items for floral design. I had not a clue at the time I would one day grow cut flowers but my appreciation of plant leaves, stems and flower characteristics inspired my choices of what would be cool in arrangements.
Learning the difference between shovels seemed lame at the time
But now we use 4 different types! One shovel we use today is a 4″wide trenching shovel used while laying pipe. The proper way of using loppers and clippers came to light millions of branches and stems later. We cut and prune with the future of the plant in mind.
In that same class we learned to tie knots. Our flowering branches are tied and baled using a simple knot learned from the cowboy professor with a handlebar mustache whose name I cannot remember. But I must say, our proud guys from Mexico grew up making knots in their sleep and often teach me a better way.
By the time I graduated, I had a well rounded horticulture degree “on paper” and went to work for a landscape nursery. That is where the practical education began.
There is a skill at crossing paths with people who can provide opportunity. Leaving the nursery job to grow cut flowers, I jumped into it with eagerness and moxie, acquiring a piece of ground from a family friend. I out grew the parcel quickly moving into a larger piece by way of a neighbor who “liked what I was doing”. It happened a third time for much the same reason. I guess the skill is to carry the right amount of dream on your sleeve.
“You have gone so far for so long with so little that you can do anything with nothing”. These were the words of my neighbor at our current farm who I once considered a sage. Managing money is a lesson we all get lectured on and yet it can be the kill all. Staying within means has been a juggling act all my business life and in more times than not I came out ahead. I am knocking on wood as I write this…
Having a natural eye for art and design cannot be taught.
Colors and styles depart from fashion. From the beginning we have always tried to grow “the cool stuff”. We like items florists like to use. For example, we are expanding our white flower collection for wedding season. Phlox, lysmachia, scabiosa , hydrangea,and of course white peonies and white lilac. The colors green and orange are judged hot too so hypericum berries and Asclepia are on the palette. We have some very unique foliages growing for the future. Experience in the market place has been learned well after college. We have a responsibility to offer new items to florists to keep design fresh.
Growing product customers love is at the heart of Kenyon Growers. Like giving candy away. It has been quite the education since graduation. At the time of this writing it seems like the learning will continue to flourish…