Happy 2022 to all of our customers and website visitors!
As I write this letter it occurs to me that we are in much the same place as we were in 2020 in regards to with the Covid pandemic. Many new gardeners have used the changes presented by the pandemic to try some of our plants and more established gardeners have doubled down with purchases to expand their gardens and collections. Jordan and I thank all those who patronized our small specialty operation and have enjoyed the many positive comments about the plants we were able supply.
Demand was high in 2021 and appears to be taking a similar track for 2022. While this is good for our business, it does present supply issues since we have limited propagation capabilities and have no desire to become a larger grower. Unlike many larger businesses we concentrate on high performance plants (some are simply rare) and high quality plant products. We pride ourselves on providing healthy, vigorous and premium planting material which should do well the garden. Our supplies are very limited and available inventories sell out quickly which depletes our offerings early in the year. Basically the “early bird gets the worm”, which can be frustrating for shoppers who delay purchasing. Additionally, unlike businesses that have products with short production schedules, plants are different! Daylilies are relatively quick to propagate and any that go out of stock will likely show up again in our catalogs in a year or two. Thus if a customer misses out on a purchase of a coveted cultivar, it should again become available in a relatively short time. Peonies, on the other hand, are much slower for us to build sales inventories – typically taking anywhere from 3 to 5 years before they are offered again, unless they are in staggered propagation (which most are not for us). Peonies like ‘Callisto’, ‘Kim’, ‘Angel Emily’ and other new introductions are examples of high demand plants that will not be frequently available due to demand and propagation length. Peonies have experienced a renaissance in much of the northern hemisphere around the world, creating even higher demand. Many of our plants make the trips to Canada and Europe to feed inspired gardeners, thus you may see references to them on social media. Lilies have also become popular with gardeners and they to are in high demand. Most of our offerings are now ‘Martagon’ types, which are well suited for cold climates, but are slow to propagate.
In 2020-2021 numerous peony nurseries closed their businesses creating higher demand on those still in operation. The closure of these nurseries limits both variety and quantities of plants available to the gardening public. The overall results from the loss of these businesses is less choice, higher prices and lack of interesting plants for consumers. Large “Big Box Garden Centers” and nurseries often fill this void by offering inexpensive, low quality imports which frustrate gardeners due to lack of vigor, disease, incorrect identification, late shipping or misinformation. One group of plants which has seen the greatest loss of nursery availability are peonies (both herbaceous and woody). The United States has only handful of nurserymen who propagate these plants and sources for purchasing them is even less. Solaris Farms both propagates and sells peonies, but with the lack of other sources has difficulty meeting demands. We are thankful for customer patience and are working to produce the peonies they would most like, while still providing quality plants.
Climate continues to be a concern for most gardeners and nurseries. Much of the United States experienced severe drought last year, while locally, we had higher than normal rainfall. Climate conditions also impact our ability to produce plants, since all our plant offerings are grown outdoors without protection or irrigation. Most of our plants have done well, testament to their hardy vigor, but very young plants in propagation cycles can and have been impacted. For most gardeners watering plants was necessary due to lack of rainfall. Gardeners in high rainfall areas had no easy fixes as they were at the mercy of mother nature – its difficult to remove excess water from the garden! Plants requiring high drainage (peonies, lilies and cactus) suffered the most in these heavy rainfall areas and we saw a large increase in questions about plant diseases. What mother nature throws at us cannot be controlled, but we do know that certain factors are within our control.
Most commonly we see the following problems causing plant health:
1) Planting near downspouts from roofs which cause excessive soil moisture. Especially problematic for peonies and lilies.
2) Planting near lawn automated lawn sprinklers and irrigators which cause continually wet conditions. Especially problematic for peonies and lilies.
3) Mulch cutting off air flow to the soil and causing wet situations. Pulling mulch away from the base of plants for 8 to 12 inches is recommended during the growing season.
4) Growing plants in containers. Perennial plants are not suited to container culture. Containers must be watered and often are under or over watered causing root issues. Soil types used in containers are often not compatible with perennial plants. And containers expose roots to excessive warming from sunlight or air temperatures which is beyond their adapted temperature range.
5) Composting and amending soils. Use of large amounts of compost or organic materials often creates problems with pH or is incompatible with root structures. PEAT MOSS should never be used alone and only as a minor soil constituent for most perennial plants. Peonies are shipped in peat, but do not live long if planted in peat which remains too wet.
6) Use of high nitrogen fertilizer. Perennial plants are not continuous growers through the growing season and cannot make use of this constituent in large amounts. Over fertilizing promotes soft growth which is prone to disease.
7) Crowding with other plants. Most perennial plants (especially peonies) require free air movement around them in order for their stems and foliage to remain healthy. Competing root systems from shrubs and trees are also resented by most perennial plants.
Due to climate changes we suggest siting be considered heavily before planting and believe most of the plants we sell will be productive if provided a good home.
As hybridizers we saw many our first bloom seedling plants show promise in 2021. Continued planting of seed brings promise of new developments and its our hopes that at least some of these will find their way to gardeners around the world. Keep watch in coming years for new cultivars from Solaris Farms, as there appear to be many “keepers”, but only time will tell.
Lastly, Jordan and I would like to wish everyone a great 2022 gardening season! Fortunately gardening is something which accommodates our changing world very well and may provide us with meaning and enjoyment.
All the best,
Nate Bremer (Owner)
Jordan Kabat (Operations Manager)