2020 was a most interesting year due to the Covid pandemic and the many changes it brought about. Additionally, Solaris Farms made many proprietary/management changes to better serve our customers and streamline some of our supporting activities. Many thanks go to our customers and visitors, who provided interest, input and cooperation with the many changes!
The farm brought on board an Operations Manager in 2020 (Jordan Kabat), which was extremely valuable to our continued success. Jordan is a bright and enthusiatic addition to our business and has a wealth of plant knowledge. His expertise has been put to use in numerous ways, but is most welcome in the area of plant propagation – something that sometimes get delayed or put on the backburner while serving customers. We should now be able to more reliably get our plants into a production frame work, which should allow greater access for our customers. You will likely have contact with Jordan in some way as a visitor or customer through our website.
Peony demand was at an all time high last year and it appears that trend will continue. After the closure of Song Sparrow Nursery, which was the largest distributor of woody and herbaceous peonies in the United States, we are seeing many more inquires already. However, Song Sparrow’s presence will be missed, as they were certainly an important part of supplying the American gardening community with interesting and varied selections. What this means for us is a greater demand for our peonies, both a good and bad thing! Demand for quality peonies and new cultivars has seen growth in the past few years and Solaris Farms is a small operation compared to many, thus our stock inventories will certainly not meet this growing demand. Certainly Solaris Farms could concentrate on becoming larger – something we will not do, as this would surely impact customer service, plant quality and make our labors more about business than a love for plants. Thus we’ll continue to produce small quantities of what we believe are excellent garden candidates for the northern tier.
Demand on the nursery industry in recent years has been high, with numerous large wholesale and retail operations going out of business. The driving forces are aging ownerships, inability to pass on businesses to capable buyers, changing consumer habits and lack of suitable supporting labor. These factors may show up in less interesting plants being available throughout the industry or old favorites no longer being accessible. Hopefully new blood will begin to flow into the “Green Industry” to meet an ever growing interest. Solaris Farms is working hard to produce our specialties and hope you’ll continue to support our interests.
Weather is always of interest to the gardener, sometimes a bit boring, but relevant. 2020 was an excellent growing year here in Wisconsin, however, 2019 was one of the worst in the last 20 years. 2019 was a year of record rainfall and cloudy days, which impacted plants by supplying little sunlight for expanding growth. This was most evident with herbaceous peony increase – very poor growth! What this means is we will have fewer plants to harvest in 2021 and our inventories will be quickly exhausted. Additionally, many of our recently introduced cultivars will take more time to grow into available stock. Thus you’ll see an absence of those plants in this year’s catalogs. Daylilies were not impacted and our newly redone fields drained to perfection. We look forward to supplying outstanding plants to gardeners who would like the summer color these plants supply.
The decision was made last year to move away from selling containerized plants (those sold in pots). While this was a wonderful and easy way to purchase plants by our onsite customers, the plants growing in them were less enthusiastic. Wintering those not sold, potting, watering and fertilizing plants in pots is expensive, time consuming and the resulting product is lesser than that grown in the field or beds. Thus, we’ve moved to almost all of our plants being grown in the ground. This wasn’t necessarily a labor saving/monetary decision, but also one that will provide better plants for our customers and is more “Earth Friendly”. Plastic is something we know is not particularly good for our environment and our little contribution is to remove these from sales and the further implications they might cause.
Lilium martagon cultivars have also seen an increase in our inventories. Of all the lilies grown in our northern gardens, this group is most suitable. They can be grown in sun or shade, are extremely winter hardy and fill a blooming niche which is relatively sparse in early summer (late June-early July). Their longevity and floriferousness is unrivalled in the lily world and are certainly something special.
Looking forward, Solaris Farms will again be open for walk-0n visits by appointment only or during open houses. We are hopeful the pandemic will be subsiding by the beginning of summer, but it will likely still be impacting all of us for some time, thus we’ll continue our pandemic protocols. If you’d like to visit to see peonies, purchase/view daylilies or lilies, please see our Appointments – Visit the Farm page. We’ll be entering open dates in late winter to early spring – stay tuned. Our offerings this coming year have many new entries and of course favorite performers from the past. We know you’ll be able to find a special long lived plant for your own gardens.
Kim, Jordan and myself look forward to working with you this coming year and hope you are as excited by the promise of another gardening season.
All the best,