Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Check out this plant

We emailed this one as our plant of the month for December. I thought everyone would enjoy seeing it on the blog...yes I am just now getting to it, busy, busy! this is a new PlantHaven variety, Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'. We will have a limited growing season here in Texas as I can't see it surviving the heat and humidity of the summer, yet I still could not resist!

The weather has been nippy for us Texans this year.  We hope we get some warmer, sunny days soon so the little plants can start growing for spring!  It is hard to grow when there is not sun, warmth and we don't water for 10 days so no fertilizer either!

Next week I head North to freeze some more.  Holly and I will be at the MANTS show in Baltimore from January 6th-8th.  If you are there, come by and see us, we love company!  Also we will have our new grower calendars there.  this year we made them smaller at 8.5" x 11" so hopefully it will be better on the bag load as our previous year's calendar was a little over sized.

I hope to writeup a 2009 summary.  I get internet at home Monday, yippee!  So this should make things easier as the evenings are the best for me to sit down and sort my thoughts!

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's gonna be CHILLY in Texas!

Whewww, we just got ready in the knick of time.  A cold blast of air is headed our way tomorrow with a low of 26F, unheard of in Southeast Texas!  I know some have experienced much worse but we are not acclimated to such weather, throw us some 100+ degree weather and we are right at home. 

We got the quonset covered this morning, I was worried we might not get these done as the wind and rain have been bad all week but today was nice.  All of the walls are up, houses buttoned up a, the heaters are primmed and the propane tanks are full.

Then as we were still putting plastic on the semi full of peat moss showed up, of course everything has to happen all at once!  So much for the 24 hour warning from the shipping company.  Fortunately we had an employee here that could drive the lifter to unload it all because that is a task!

 I am posted one last pic, well of it looking nice, of the garden.  The herbs are beautiful and things have really turned out nice.  I hope to expand these next year as they are such a pleasure to have around the office!  I will tell the employees this afternoon to harvest away as these will be no more after Friday's blizzard! (Yes they are predicting some snow here, Global Warming???, Oh yes it is Global Cooling now) BURRRRRRR!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Need a Job?

Greenhouse Manager
We are searching for a new greenhouse manager as ours will be moving away soon. This position is available ASAP! Come join us in the piney woods of Magnolia, Texas to work for a progressive young plant nursery

Duties include:
Managing a 10 person crew
Cordinating orders for shipping each week
Scouting for disease and insect problems
Maintaining crop health and size requirements for shipping
Communicating with sales to maintain proper inventory levels for orders
Filing monthly inventory reports
Maintaining strict greenhouse sanitation procedures

Must be bilingual
Must be willing to work outside the majority of each work day
Must have a background/experience in horticulture
Pay dependent on experience
401 K plus benefits provided
If you are interested please contact April at 281-705-7724 or April@MGNLiners.com

Spring is Here!!!!

Well that would be in the lab, not outside, burrrrr it is getting cold..to me!  In the lab plants must go through stage 3 inside which can take 6-8 weeks then they are planted and must finish as a liner for 8-15 weeks.  So you can see why Spring is now in the lab, actually it started in November.  With the holiday getting plants ready becomes much more tricky so we usually try and work 10 hours days.  This year we have been on a 4 day work week since July but starting in December we are going back to 5.  Hopefully we can keep everyone at 5 days, this will depend on the orders, if they are slim we will go back to 4 days.

We are growing a ton of new products, I have started these in hopes of sparking new sales with new customers and old.  We would like to become the source of all quality liners but also new and unusual plants.  We are working with many people to make this happen but it will take time.  Also we will start a new 12 month ad campaign with NMPro to help us deliver this message and to let people know we are more than just Nandinas!  I am working on our new website www.mgnliners.com that will be released early December....must get to work now!  I think it will really help customers get to know us a little better and it will help eliminate confusion people have with our current site that lumps both of our nurseries together, liners and containers, customers get confused on location and product grown all of the time.  Anyway a sneak peak can be seen here, I must say it is very snazzy, of course i am being bias since I designed it, haha!  www.mgnliners.com/index2.html.

Below is a listing of new products we will have in 2010, this is just a start, more to come soon!  Keep an eye on us, we are more than just Nandinas!

Aeonium 'Kiwi'
Aeonium 'Pinwheel'
Agave 'Blue Flame' Blue Flame Agave
Aloe 'Pink Blush' PPAF Pink Blush Aloe
Anigozanthos falvidus x rufus' Bush Sunset' Kangaroo Paw
Anigozanthos humilus x flavidus 'Yellow Gem' Kangaroo Paw
Anigozanthos 'Tequila Sunrise' Kangaroo Paw
Bambusa pervariabilis Clumping Bamboo
Capsicum annuum Chile Pequin
Capsicum annuum 'Black Pearl' Ornamental Pepper
Capsicum annuum 'Calico'Ornamental Pepper
Capsicum annuum 'Chilly Chili'Ornamental Pepper
Capsicum annuum 'Medusa'Ornamental Pepper
Caryopteris x clandonensis 'First Choice' P.P. # 11,958 Blue Mist Spirea
Clerodendrum incisum 'Macrosiphon' Musical Notes
Crassula coccinea 'Campfire'
Crassula muscosa Watch Chain Plant
Crassula muscosa pseudolycopodiodes Princess Pine
Crassula ovata arborescens Baby Jade
Crassula ovata 'Variegata' Variegated Jade Plant
Crassula radicans large red Carpet Stonecrop
Crassula radicans Small red Carpet Stonecrop
Cuphea ignea 'David Verity' Cigar Plant
Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata' Variegated Flax Lily
Dianella tasmanica 'Yellow Stripe' Gold Stripe Flax Lily
Dyckia hybrida 'Burgundy Ice' PPAF
Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' PPAF Variegated Euphorbia
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Fanfare' P.P.#15892 Indian Blanket Flower
Geum x 'Totally Tangerine' PPAF
Hamelia patens Mexican Firebush
Kalanchoe pumila 'Silver Gray'
Lantana camara 'Robpatrai' P.P.#9,837 Patriot™ Petite™ Rainbow Lantana
Lysimachia puncata 'Golden Alexander' P.P.# 13,547 Variegated Loosestrife
Nandina domestica 'KAYDEE' Atomic fireball™ Nandina
Nandina domestica 'MURASAKI' PPAF Flirt™ Nandina This is a Southern Living Plant Collection Exclusive.
Nandina domestica 'SEIKA' PPAF Obsession™ Nandina This is a Southern Living Plant Collection Exclusive.
Pennisetum glaucum 'Jade Princess' Ornamental Millet
Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' Ornamental Millet
Pennisetum purpureum 'Princess' P.P.#17,728 Ornamental Napier Grass
Philodendron 'Xanadu' Dwarf Philodendron
Rosmarinus officinalis 'Gold Dust' Variegated Rosemary
Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara' P.P. # 12949 Compact Mexican Bush Sage
Sedum lineare 'Variegatum' Variegated Stonecrop
Sedum kamtschaticum 'Variegatum'
Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'
Sedum rupestre 'Chocolate Ball'
Sedum spurium 'Red Carpet'
Sedum spurium 'Tricolor'

Monday, November 23, 2009

IPPS Video Presentation with narration

Well I finally got around to narrating my video presentation that I gave to the IPPS Southern Region In Biloxi this year.  It is not the best as I cannot find my mic for the life of me, funny how things "disappear" around the office, hmmmmm?  Also I only did one take, probably could have used 2-3, haha!  Anyway I digress, the video is in 3 parts because YouTube will only allow 10 minutes of video, boo hoo!  This will give a great in-depth look to what we do here and it goes into a little of what we have had to do as of late do to the bad economy.  WARNING:  There is some harm done to plants in part 3, don't cry, it was painless and they are in a better place called mulch :)

The presentation went well considering all of the potential technically difficulties that could have transpired!  I nearly had a stress meltdown before leaving town as it seemed nothing I did would make the video presentation I did to be easier, work in the first place!  Well it worked, it was just blurry and I was imagining a giant theater sized screen for some reason and it turned out to be a small pop up screen.  I thought I figured it out but saving the raw data version then popped in a DVD to burned and realized it was way to big to burn on a DVD even!  The version that I exported to iDVD looked blurry when I played it on my computer, a Mac so I was sure the hotel would have an inferior PC, making it look that much worse!  Oh what to do!  Here is what I did, come in to play my personal MacBook and the Apple store at the mall.  I have a Mac at home, of course, but it is a little older and only has a 10 GB harddrive, not enough for this powerhouse movie!  I went to the Mac store and picked up an external harddrive, that connect via a Firewire, yes faster file transfer!  Went to work the next day got everything transferred and Voila, it worked!  The Firewire allowed me to play the movie from the external harddrive smoothly.  Oh but wait, there is more!  I suddenly realized the connection on my baby Mac was not the giant honky-sized connection that most projectors have, oh dear, I though I had everything figured out.  Google to the rescue!  I figured out the Apple store sells adapters, yes back there the night before our departure as I am darn sure there are no Apple Stores in Biloxi, MS!  After all of this stress everything worked, I did bring backups just in case as well as my DVD Player, as it seemed the burned version from iDVD looked way better played on a DVD than the computer.  Through my Googling very scientific research I found out the movie quality depends on the player installed on the computer, problem is I never found a very good one to handle my Mastapiece!  All in all a stressful experience, but these are usually the ones where we learn the most, ahh yes I know just a hair more about video production than I did before, look out Hollywood!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Welcome to the Club

 Nandina domestica 'Kaydee'
Atomic FireballTM Nandina

We are please to introduce Nandina domestica 'Kaydee'.  This fall we are releasing a limited amount of this new Nandina that we have been fiddling with for several years now.  We are going to call this one Atomic FireballTM Nandina, because it looks like a little ball of fire!  This is a sport of Nandina 'Firepower' that was found by Kay Herring, also known as the "Mother of Nandinas" since she has managed the lab for nearly 20 years now!  While walking in the 1 gallon crop of Nandina 'Firepower' in 2004, Kay noticed a smaller, different looking plant.  She took it to the greenhouse and the process of propagation was started.  This Nandina is now in production in a limited supply, numbers will be increased if the demand is high.  The pictures seen here are of a 3 year old plant, this is a slow grower and you will not have to worry about it getting out of hand, topping out at around 18" tall.  Also like 'Firepower' no flowers or berries have been seen to date so issues with invasiveness is a non-issue.   Why do we call it Atomic FireballTM , well it has the same fantastic bright red winter color as it's Momma, but the growth habit is very compact, almost ball-like.  I guess you could call it a dwarf, dwarf, since 'Firepower' is already a dwarf.  We also like to kid around the nursery and call it "Kay's Grandbaby" since her 4 kids have yet to produce her a real one, haha!  We think this would be a great addition for small landcapes and for gardeners that don't want to trim.  Also we like using this lil' one for a foundation plant in mixed containers, also works well as a stand alone in a container as you can see from the picture.  Hope you all enjoy this one!  If you want to try it out, jump now, we only have a few liners available for 2009!
Firepower vs. FireballTM Nandina

Thursday, October 22, 2009

IPPS Southern Region Paper

Below is the paper I am submitting for the IPPS Southern Region Meeting.  Just a background of sorts of the nursery here.  I am just happy it is finished before we start driving, driving and typing don't go together!!!

A Behind The Scenes Tour of Young Plant Production in Magnolia, Texas at Magnolia Gardens Nursery.

April Herring
Magnolia Gardens Nursery Liner Division, 18810 Turtle Creek Lane, Magnolia, Texas 77355
Email:  April@MGNLiners.com

Magnolia Gardens Nursery is a medium sized nursery with 3 locations in Texas including, Magnolia, Waller and Plantersville.  The nursery has two divisions; one that grows finished containerized stock and the other that grows lining out stock.  The focus of this paper will be the liner division at the Magnolia, Texas location that specializes in young plant production through the use of micropropagation, in particular that of Nandina domestica.  To many the process of micropropagation can seem mythical.  This is mainly due to the fact that not every nursery deals in this method of propagation as they would with conventional means such as cuttings, grafting and seeds.  So it is the purpose of this paper to show that micropropagation is not mythical, just unfamiliar.  This will be done by going through some of the daily activities at the liner division of Magnolia Gardens Nursery.
Magnolia Gardens Nursery has a product line that is constantly evolving to keep up with market demands, the major products that are produced at this time include Agapanthus, Iris, Loropetalum, Nandina and Yucca as well as a variety of ornamental grasses and perennials.  Nandina domestica is at the top of the list when it come to production and sales numbers at about 3 million units sold per year, with Nandina ‘Firepower’ selling at around 1.4 million units alone.  The owner of Magnolia Gardens Nursery, Tommy Marek, started the liner division back in 1983 in an upstairs bedroom of his home.  The container nursery had already got its start in 1978 and tissue culture was just a hobby of sorts as the process was still rather new and was just starting to become popular as a means of commercial propagation.  It didn’t take long for the hobby to outgrow the bedroom so the lab was moved to a few rental houses near the nursery.  This is where the lab experienced troubled times and was nearly shut down because it was generating no profit.  It took the smarts of a new lab manager to turn the lab around by making processes more efficient and concentrating on products that would generate profit, this made it the place it is today.  Once the orders starting coming in, the rental houses started feeling cramped and plans for an actual building where made.  A formal lab structure was built in 1994; the building totals 6240 ft2, 2288 ft2 being growing space.  This original structure has the capability to hold 1.9 million plantlets at any given time.  In 2004 the lab was expanded to make room for new crops the lab was pursuing.  The expansion brought in an additional 3900 ft2 of growing space.  At capacity the new space can house around 3.4 million plantlets, total lab capacity coming to 5.3 million plantlets.  Currently there are 15 hoods with 2 spaces each or room for 30 technicians.  Outside there are 4 greenhouse structures and the total growing space is around 3 Acres.  There is room to wean 360,000 plants at any given time and at full capacity room to finish 2.5 million plants for sales. 
The right product mix  The first step to a successful lab is to grow the right product, one that the operation can grow with success, one that has high demand yet little supply in the market and one that cannot be easily propagated conventionally.  For Magnolia Gardens Nursery this product has been Nandina domestica but with market conditions continually changing this may not be the case in the future.  So to remain successful, the hunt is always on for new potential products.  Micropropagation is not a process for impatient people.  There is a notion that tissue culture is magical, producing thousands of plants very quickly, it can be depending on the definition of “quickly”.  To put it into perspective, i.e. put a plant into the lab today it will not be ready for sales a year later.  Although there are plants that multiply rapidly in tissue culture, these are generally not the type of plants Magnolia Gardens Nursery produces, as many of the products grown are hard to propagate woody plants.  With crop times of 6 to 10 weeks and multiplication rate of 1.5 to 3 the benefit of putting a plant in tissue culture is not seen quickly as many think it should be.  To see the magic of tissue culture one must look at the overall effect, as an example the propagation of the plant Nandina ‘AKA’ will be reviewed.  In November of 2004 this plant was discovered in a crop of Nandina ‘Firepower’, there were 2 plants at the time, the first step was to grow them to a larger size for the initiation process.  The plants were initiated in 2005; by the year-end we had 200 plants.  So already over a year into the process we only had 200 plants, this is were many people get frustrated, thinking they should have 1000’s by now.  By the end of 2006 we had 2,700 plants, 2007 we had 4,700 plants but 16,000 were taken out for rooting.  After this it was decided to bulk the crop up so less rooting was taken and by the end of 2008 we had 48,000 plants and had rooted 14,000.  Once larger numbers are reached the gains are exponential and one can easily see that in 3 years conventional propagation would have not have produced the yields that the process of micropropagation did.   So you can see the cumulative effects of using micropropagation can be magical, it just might not be as quick as many think it should be.  
Initiation  There are many factors that come into play when deciding what steps to take in getting a plant clean.  Plant type, plant age, growing environment the plants were in, time of year, etc.  We have a general sterilization procedure for woody plants and for herbaceous plants that is changed up depending on the factors discussed above. At Magnolia Gardens Nursery we use a combination trimming techniques along with differing concentrations of Sodium Hypochlorite, Ethanol, along with sterile distilled water and Tween.
Media  Media is made in house in 36 Liter batches about 4 times per day.  Stock solutions are made up in 5-gallon batches to keep pace with the amount of media needed per day.  We use 4 media formulations for the bulk of our crops, which helps keep processes efficient. The media is dispensed using a mixer to keep all solids such as sugar and gelling agent suspended while an automatic dispensing machine dispenses the proper amount of media into test tubes, baby jars or magenta containers.  After everything is dispensed the containers with media are sterilized in an autoclave that heats to 250ºF and pressurizes to 20 PSI.  Once the containers are sterilized they are only opened under the laminar flow hood to maintain sterility.
Working the Crops Average crop cycle is about 6 weeks but many plants can go longer than this and actually do better if they are left longer.  For the most part woody plants have longer crop cycles than herbaceous.  Herbaceous plants will start to go downhill much quicker than a woody.  Woody plants also do better when cycles are longer; when the cycles are too short the plants start to perform poorly.  All plants are screened for contaminates as well as uniformity by supervisors before the technicians cut them for either multiplication or rooting.  The supervisors are in charge of getting plants to and from the growth room so that there is little traffic in the growth room keeping it clean and organized.  When crops are worked a certain portion will go for stage 3 or rooting while the remainder will stay in stage 2 as mother stock.  This percentage will fluctuate depending on season and market conditions.  Crops are kept healthy and clean through the screening process, only the best will remain as mother stock.
Acclimatization  The plants become accustomed to living in a perfect environment now they must be able to survive the great outdoors which is higher in light intensity, less humid and for most of the year it is warmer.  We help plantlets as best we can with the transition by using a variety of shade and cooling systems.  All soil is mixed onsite to ensure quality.  In 2009 we started using mychorrhizae in our soil mix to help produce a stronger root system that will be a great benefit to growers once the liners are potted up. Most plants take an average of 10 weeks to finish depending on season with Agapanthus taking the longest time to finish at 15 weeks.
In the liner division there is one sales person that handles all orders from start to finish.  Including answering the phone, taking the orders, printing invoices, organizing shipping and more.  To date this has worked very well for us.  Products are shipped the most efficient means possible including by truck, air, FedEx, and UPS.  Most of the product grown is shipped within the U.S. but we also ship internationally, with the bulk of that material going to Canada.  The product grown and numbers produced are dependent on communication with customers too see how they are doing and what product they will need for the upcoming season using a prebooking system. Even with communication it can be hard to tell when things are going to come to a stand still and when things will start moving again in a bad economy.  With the downturn of the economy as of late, the prebooking system has not been as effective of a tool as in years past, as many growers are very cautious placing orders until they see an economic upturn.  The goal now is too keep product in the pipeline at all the various stages, to maintain the quality of product that customers expect and to predict what products will sell in the near future.  What this means is that product must be discarded once it is past its prime, through planning we try to keep the discards to a minimum.
Even though the present looks a little bleak we are excited about the future.  We are taking this time to start new product lines such as perennials and succulents.  Also we have a new line of Nandina that will be featured in The Southern Living® Program.  We are learning a lot during these slow times, how to use labor, chemicals, fertilizer and supplies more efficiently.  As the motto says “That that does not kill us only makes us stronger.”  We look to be a stronger, more efficient young plant nursery once we make it through this.
The liner division at Magnolia Gardens Nursery started over 26 years ago.  From our humble beginnings we have slowly grown to what we are now by using careful planning and not making rash decisions.  Our success can be attributed to two things; the first is our employees, 7 of which have worked for the division 20 years or more.  The second is our product line, which will continually be monitored and changed according to market conditions.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Series of posts to come

I have been travelling again. This time to Holland and Ireland, the main reason was to go to the IPPS conference in Kilkenny but the moon was in alignment with Pluto, oh wait I think that is not a planet anymore, sad, one of my favorites! Anyway I digress as usual. On the trip I also got to meet a ton of fabulous people that I have been in contact with only through the Internet so it was so great to meet face to face. In Holland I got to meet with Peter at Plantip whom I have just recently been introduced to through email and in Ireland I got to finally meet Pat FitzGerald whom I have had contact with since the start of the year through email, Twitter and skype. I also met numerous other people at the conference including one of the organizers, Mike Norris of New Place Nurseries. This trip was a plant nerd's ultimate plant fantasy. I will post several pictures so you can see what I mean, well it really was for this Texas gal since we don't grow much of that in these parts.

More to come as I have time, am at my computer with pictures and away from tiny little iPhone keyboard!

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, September 6, 2009

IPPS International 2009 Paper!

Well I think I finally finished it, it was hard to limit the page number to only 7!  I am very long winded when I write.  Then I looked at the Proceedings from last year and noticed most people had only 3 pages, so I went and chopped some more down to 5 as to not be a page hog!  I hope that this gives some further insight to what we do here, please feel free to comment. 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Young Plant Production in Magnolia, Texas at Magnolia Gardens Nursery.

April Herring
Magnolia Gardens Nursery Liner Division, 18810 Turtle Creek Lane, Magnolia, Texas 77355
Email:  April@MGNLiners.com


Magnolia Gardens Nursery is a nursery in Magnolia, Texas that specializes in young plant production through the use of tissue culture, in particular that of numerous Nandina domestica cultivars.  Young plant production comes with many rewards but there are many challenges to overcome to reach those rewards.  These challenges include deciding what plants to produce, determining the best production protocol, acclimization and finishing, and finding innovative ways to deal with a slow economy.   One of the biggest rewards is the discovery of a new plant and having the ability to use tissue culture to bring it to market quicker than traditional propagation methods.  Many bridges must be crossed to reach this final step and each must be crossed with high success rates so that the end product is of good quality and ultimately, profitable.


What Plants Should We Produce?  To answer this question we first have to ask ourselves:

1.  Is the plant worthy?
2.  Can we grow it?
3.  Are we making enough profit on the item?
Before starting any new product we first trial it outside to make sure it is truly unique compared to other products already on the market making it worth growing.  Also this trialing period is a good time to note whether or not the plant can be grown in our climate.  Something else we consider is whether or not a potential new product is easy to propagate conventionally as the tissue culture process is costly. 
Once it is established that a plant is worthy, the next step is to determine if it can be produced with success.  Some plants prove extremely difficult to grow in the lab, such as trees.  Other plants don’t grow well in either the lab or the greenhouse and the losses involved are too high to make much if any profit.  An example of this for our lab would be Ensete ‘Maurelli’; by the time everything was said and done plant losses were 50% or more.  This does not account for space and labor losses this plant caused as well.  Other plants grow very well in the lab; it is the Texas climate that causes poor to no survival.  Phormium and Libertia are examples of this type of plant, which look fine in cooler months but cannot make it through the extreme summer months.
Lastly, we ask, are we making a profit on this item?  Some plants are worthy and we can grow them, it is other issues make them bad choices for production.  Bananas such as Musa ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ are examples of this.  Bananas is a great candidate for tissue culture but the problem was the amount of labor needed to keep the plants maintained in the lab, being 2-3 times more than a woody.  Also, the big sales season is in the spring so the rest of the year is spent on maintenance or subculturing the mother stock.  There are many reasons to produce a product or not, each plant must be looked at individually to make an informed decision.

How do we get a plant into a sterile environment?

There are many factors that come into play when deciding what steps to take in getting a plant clean of contaminates.  Plant type, plant age, the growing environment that the plants were in, time of year, and more all play large rolls into how successful the sterilization procedure will be.  Plants we commonly produce have a general sterilization procedure but even the same plant can have different results using the same procedure.  The best method is to decide the procedure used the day of initiation according to the plants appearance.  Tender plants can burn easily and plants that are more mature may need more sterilization.  A combination of Sodium Hypochlorite, Ethanol, along with sterile distilled water and Tween is used in our sterilization procedures.

How do we grow a plant in a sterile environment?

Once the plant is clean it is time to figure out what media it will best grow on.  To keep processes efficient we usually try and grow a new plant on media we already are using and making in large batches, pending the research shows it can grow on something similar.  Small batches of media are made for plants that we know our common media will not work on and for experimental media for plants that are not performing to our standards.
Not only must media be considered but the crop cycle must be decided as well.  Some plants will let you know very quickly how long their crop cycle is.  Yucca ‘Color Guard’, for instance, will start dying at about 4 weeks, if they are not transferred on time the crop will be lost.  Woody plants can survive longer than most herbaceous plants and some need to be subcultured less or they perform poorly when weaning.  The most common crop cycle is 6 weeks but many plants can go longer than this.  As the lab gets behind on transfers, which is common, we quickly learn what plants last the longest.


Plant produced in tissue culture become accustomed to living in a perfect environment and then they must be able to survive the great outdoors which has a higher light intensity, less humidity and for the most part in Texas, is hotter.  We help them as best we can with the transition by using a double shade system, black shade cloth on the outside of the greenhouse and Svensson® XLS firebreak screen on the inside to reduce temperatures.  Also we cover the plants with a plastic dome, which are purchased clear but are given a light coat of white spray paint to give even greater protection from the high light.  The domes serve another purpose as well by keeping the humidity high.  After a week of being covered the plants are uncovered to start to adjust even further to the drier air.  To keep the temperature cooler in the summer months a Kool Cell pad and fan system is used.  In the weaning area no fertilizer is used as to not burn the roots of the sensitive plantlets.  After around 4 weeks plants are moved to their final location before shipping.  These growing areas have high light levels and liquid feed is used in these areas.  Plants have the hardest time adjusting to the outside environment during our summer months, which can be very hot and humid.  Because of the harsh summer we must pick plants that can handle this rather than try to fight the climate.  Also we have to be very careful planting during extreme heat such as in June 2009 where we had 7 days straight above 100 °F (38°C).  Plants that are sensitive in the weaning process should be held in the lab when possible until the weather cools. 

How do we handle production in a bad economy?

A slow economy comes in cycles so one must be prepared for this to happen.  The most important thing we do is keep in contact with customers to see how they are doing, what products do they need and what orders will need to be cancelled.  Even with communication it is still hard to know exactly when things are going to come to a stand still and when things will start moving again.  There are several steps we take to keep plants in the pipeline so that we are ready when sales pickup.  Young plant production has a continuous pipeline of product being produced, once sales slow the numbers coming out of the pipeline must be adjusted.  The mother stock must always be maintained or subcultured even if product is not needed otherwise the crops will decline and eventually die.  We usually try and keep motherstock at predetermined inventory levels.  When subculturing any excess product produced will be rid of to keep the supply in check with the market demands rather than putting it into stage 3 production.  This is also a good time to weed out any weak plants and get crops in top-notch condition.  Discarding plants in the micro stage is the most cost efficient as the cost of planting and maintaining in the greenhouse can be considerable.  The flow of the pipeline will be slower but it should not stop completely so that there is product ready to go when sales pickup, if the pipeline is completely shut off it could take upwards of 20-30 weeks to get product ready for sales.  Ways of doing this include holding plants in a cooler at 40 °F (4.5°C) to slow down growth, holding plants on the shelf longer before sending to wean, holding plants outside longer by keeping in the weaning area longer and by decreasing fertilizer usage once they are moved to their finishing location.  Because sales are slow in a downturn eventually finished material must be discarded because the quality no longer meets our standards and most products have a limited shelf life no matter how much care is given to them.  As old plants in various stages of growth are rid of, new plants are replanted in hopes sales will pick up, keeping the pipeline full.


Producing plants is tricky as they are living and will not fit the factory production model.  This can cause much frustration at times, as plants seem to have a mind of their own.  For us there is no better reward than to discover a new product at the nursery and to then see it through to production, marketing and eventually sales.  It is the light at the end of the tunnel that drives us.


Young plant production comes with many challenges as most businesses do but there are many rewards to be enjoyed once these challenges are worked through.  At Magnolia Gardens Nursery we decide what plants best fit into our production model, fine tuning a selection of product that is in good demand, that will receive a fair price, and that we can produce with great success and quality.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tradeshow Report Summer 2009

Well the summer tradeshow season has come and gone for us here at Magnolia Gardens Nursery. It has been a few weeks of whirlwind travel for me so I have not had much time to post anything. I am finally getting settled back in after a week back home so I thought I would write a few things that were on my mind before I take off again with Neil one of the managers at our container division to Amsterdam to visit nurseries and the flower auction as well as a good friend who recently moved there. After that we fly over to Ireland to the IPPS International conference. I am really excited about this as I have never been to Ireland or Holland and have never been to an International IPPS meeting that was outside of the US, weee! Also I am excited about meeting Pat FitzGerald who we have done some work with and someone who’s tweets I really enjoy reading. All right enough about the future because you will certainly hear about that once it is the past. For now let’s get on with the past!

August 10th marked the first day of my 2 weeks of travel. I took a flight to Dallas, TX…I know I go far when I travel! LOL! I would have driven but I did not want to have to drive back to Houston to have to fly out again to Colorado. I left on the 10th because I am a member of the Parks and Patio task force. This is a group of people that are in charge of decorating the TNLA Expo with gardens, mixed containers and more. Without these areas the tradeshow would just be plain and boring. Plus we have to go big because the Expo is in Texas y’all! For more on this group see the article I wrote about them here:


Not much to see here yet!
The GIANT fountain being installed. 

Monday through Thursday was spent decorating the hall, the hall went to complete flat concrete to a masterpiece in just 4 short days.A shot of one Parks and patio area, also nice to see Flirt Nandina front and Center!

The herb garden I was in charge of putting together, came out better that expected! 
I was not there to witness but I am sure the whole thing came down a lot quicker….probably 4 hours! During my time with Parks and Patio I went to check to see how Holly was doing on her own since I was not there to help. Of course she was perfectly fine on her own and our booth was rockin’! For those of you who where at Expo you might remember it from the hot orange colors..or maybe Stacie caught your eye.  We didn't win best booth award, a prefabricated booth won, kinda bummed but we know ours was a winner in the hearts of the Expo visitors.  A booth has to be good when people want to take pictures of it and with Stacie!  Next year we will be back with an even better booth...we are already formulating ideas!
Blue..Orange, Fabulous together! For sure stood out in all of the Green of the show.
Disco was the theme, we even did some dancin'!
Green Walls! Also you can see Holly's pic on the B&W poster above!
Love is in the air!

Friday August 14th marked the first day of the Expo and Holly and I were happy to see the mood nor the traffic were as bad as we had been expecting. People seemed upbeat, traffic was good though a little down and we actually sold a little product which helped pay for the show so that was a bonus. Amy Prenger with the TNLA State office had this to say “Our total attendance was 7,025! Last year we were at 7,029. The attendees, not counting exhibitor personnel, was actually up about 8%. Our total exhibitor personnel was down, but attendees were up!” So I guess it was more than a feeling there were more people walking the show this year. Our newest Nandina, Flirt at the PDSI booth!

Around noon I left the Expo and headed for the airport to fly out to Colorado Springs because I was running in the half marathon the next day….acclimate…who needs to acclimate, that is for wimps. Ok, just kidding! If I had time I would have gone earlier, it might have helped, at least I like to think that was why I was huffing and puffing more than normal. The half marathon is called the Pike’s Peak Accent, I call it the run to the top of the world, because you run to the top of Pike’s Peak. A view from the top of the world.
Each step closer equals less oxygen in the air, by the time I reached the top I had reached the Rocky Mountain High that John Denver sings about. I made the journey in 4 hours and 48 minutes, I am thinking next year to do the full marathon because I must really love pain, haha! I did do my own Pike’s Peak decent 2 days later to see who this felt, it is a lot harder than you would think, took me 3 hours 30 minutes, 13 miles on flat road takes me just under 2 hours. My legs hurt more from the decent than the accent, but at least I was not breathing as hard going down, just had to watch my feet more carefully so that I did not fall and bash my teeth out!

After my time in Colorado Springs was up I flew directly to Portland, Oregon for the Farwest show on Wednesday the 19th of August. I got there later than we normally get there but I did not have much selection coming out of the tiny COS airport. I did get there in time to at least help Holly a little with setup then to go enjoy our traditional meal at Nicolas Restaurant, a hole in the wall place with great Lebanese food. Fresh homemade bread and hummus, what more could you ask for? After are satisfying meal we headed to Hood River where we would spend the night before the first day of the show. The show starts at noon everyday so we like to spend our time exploring Oregon. In Hood River we shopped a little and found a brewery called Full Sail that had some tasty beer. Decisions, Decisions...
After that it was off to the hotel for a much needed full night’s rest. The tradeshow in Oregon was again more upbeat than we expected, we changed booth locations and this seemed to bring us better traffic, only we hope next year giant palms won’t be blocking our view, I always thought 10’x10’ meant that but I suppose you could take that sizing as meaning you are getting a bigger booth, hmmmm. Still groovin' on the West Coast!
The OAN had this to say about the show “Members reported that in spite of the worst recession in decades, which resulted in less activity than prior years on the show floor, there was still a spirit of optimism. Many trust that the industry will regain its footing during the recovery, which economists believe is already underway.” We gave away blinky lights, a USA flag to go with our all liners are grown in the USA campaign. These were a big hit at both tradeshows, not sure if it will help business, not sure if any giveaways actually do, but it did bring us attention at the show. After the first day we got to go to our hotel in downtown Portland, I was really excited about this since it was new and a boutique hotel, just my style. The name is The Nines, and appropriately so, this place was amazing. The view from our room of the Urban Farmer.
Our room, I know.....jealous huh?
It is in the former Meyer & Frank building and it is unique, at least to me, because the lobby was on the 8th floor. The restaurant was on this floor as well, some of the rooms looked down onto the restaurant, like ours that was on the 10th floor. Great drinks at the Urban Farmer but we never ate there so I don’t know how to rate the food. We did get to enjoy a meal at Jake’s Grill which is always lovely, wish I had saved room for dessert! The next night we enjoyed greasy bar food at our new favorite hole in the wall bar with no name, across from the physic….which yes is a tradition to go to as well! We also enjoyed a few cocktails at Saucebox, if you like interesting drinks this is the place to go…then walk back across the street for more fried goodies at the bar with no name! A tradition, get a few fancy drinks at SauceBox, while people watching Mary's across the street.
This lady knows things she shouldn't! Probably sees dead people too!

All in all we felt Portland was successful in the contacts we made and we look forward to continuing to build relationships with our West Coast friends.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Survey Says...

In July I held a survey for an article I was writing for TNLA Region II on the surviving the slow economy in the nursery industry. Here is the article I wrote:

Last month the Region II Newsletter staff decided to send out a survey asking how companies were doing in the slower economy. Now for the results! 31 people answered the survey, not a huge number, but not too bad either. Hopefully in the future we can get better participation, more responses mean more information! We got responses from the following companies: Kris Bitner Horticultural Consultant, Greenleaf Nursery Company, JenScapes, Inc., Simmons Oak Farms, Dennis Newton, Turf and Landscape Consultant, Living Expression Landscapes, Enchanted Trees of Texas, Pearl Acres Nursery, Joshua’s Native Plants, Home Depot, Clepper’s Landscaping, Bare Spot Solutions Grass & Installation, Orchis Obsession, JNM Technologies, Inc., Southerwest Property Landscaping, Elways Indutries, Inc., Glueck Tree Farm, Sam Houston State University, Magnolia Garden Nursery, Triangle Nursery, Inc., Verdant Tree Farm, Landscape Art and Plants for All Seasons. Thanks to all that participated! Mostly growers answered the survey at 45.2%. See the graph here:


Interesting to us was that the sales being up or down was 50/50. Some companies seem to be cooking along even with the slow economy while others are falling behind. From the responses it looks like companies that are becoming experts in their area such as consulting are doing better this year. Also companies offering the total package, such as irrigation, landscape design and installation together so the homeowner only has to choose one contractor. In the grower area it seems larger material is moving more slowly as consumers are on a tighter budget, also because of slower home sales bread and butter items are moving slower as well. Smaller items such as annual and perennials and specialty items are selling well. Along the specialty item line, organics and edibles are gaining in popularity as people are more aware of what they eat, even growing their own food to save money. Drought tolerant plants still remain popular and will continue to do so as water restrictions pick up. On the landscaping side of things it seems commercial is down, probably due to the slow down in construction but residential is up. Homeowners are putting money into the home, as this will become a vacation spot or “staycation” on tight budgets. Some recommendations to stay ahead of the game during the slowdown were to keep the product fresh, and in particular for retail to spruce up the store with some inexpensive fixes, maybe a new paint job, new signs. Let people know you are in business and make them want to come back, nobody wants to shop at a place that looks tired and done. For everyone the biggest recommendation was good customer service, you have customers now, don’t let them go! Some firms have hired extra staff to provide superior customer service. In this economy you have to work twice as hard to get a customer and even harder to keep a customer.

Several changes have been implemented to help survive the slowdown as seen from the graph below. The most popular were to offer more unique services and products and to look at ways to make processes more efficient. Most people increased the marketing budget, which is recommended during a slowdown, you don’t want to disappear! See the graph here:


These are the results, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Video Tour is Up!

Well today we did a happy hour of sorts through Twitter. We posted a special that lasted from 2-5pm CST and posted a few videos that takes you through a virtual tour of the facilities. These are posted on youtube. Here they are:

Inside Tour:

Outside Tour:

Just an inside look at what we do everyday, hope you like these! BTW they are narrated by your truly!

Friday, July 24, 2009


Well the economy just stinks, that I am sure most of us know. We are keeping our chin up but also being realistic. On July 10th we started working a 4 day week, one to cut costs but also because there is less work to do. We have a small skeleton crew working, myself, Holly and Minera our water woman (kinda like Wonder Woman!) Anyway, it is very quiet on Fridays so we hope that things turn around soon, we are getting lonely here! I will say that by working 4 days we have improved efficiencies in the lab. The crew there was on a more relaxed schedule, now the technicians are working longer hours on the 4 days in hopes of making up lost time they would get on Friday. It is always better to work a few long days than a series of short days. I have asked others in the industry are doing but I don't get specifics, just the ol' "We're hangin' in there"

I am excited about the upcoming tradeshows we have, hopefully we will get to see many customers face to face and talk about the Spring of 2010. It will be nice to get a feel for what everyone else thinks this spring season holds for us, I am pretty sure we already know what Fall has in store :((((. I have posted a survey on what companies are doing to survive this slow economy, if you are interested in expressing your opinion, please do so here:


I would love to hear from you, maybe share ideas if you have them! Even though things are down we are not all doom and gloom. We are working on several exciting projects that are going to make for an exciting future. Remember all good things come to those that wait. I am looking forward to next week, I think we will post another twitter special, if you are not following us you should here: www.twitter.com/MGNLiners we post things like specials too good to be missed, also we keep you updated on what we are doing around the nursery. We are always up to something!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nandina Blush Pink™ set to release

Well the HOT weather just won't quit so hopefully it will be a great time to start the official release of our newest Nandina, Nandina domestica 'AKA' or Blush Pink™ Nandina, P.P. 19916. You will see this one at the TNLA Expo in Dallas, TX from August 14-16th. Just check it out in the Flowerwood booth or the Magnolia Gardens booth, we will be in booth 1015! This Nandina will be an exclusive to the Southern Living® Plant Program, I am super excited about it being that it is the first patent Magnolia Gardens has even been granted. Here is the tag that you will see:
A little about this plant,

Nandina domestica 'AKA' is a new Nandina discovered by 3 employees at the Magnolia Gardens Nursery tissue culture facility. April Herring (that's me!!), Kay Herring (Mom!) and Adriana Garza (Our Greenhouse supervisor). This is were we got the cultivar name 'AKA' Interestingly enough AKA is the word for red in Japanese, which in the summer we think the new growth is nearly red, this was really neat considering we were going for a Japanese theme in our marketing. This new Nandina is a sport of Nandina domestica 'Firepower' with some added spice. Blush Pink™ Nandina PP# 19,916 will provide year round interest with its blush pink colored new growth as it continuously blushes from spring till fall. The selection of this plant was made based on its unique and long lasting blush pink colored young foliage in contrast to the typical lime-green colored young foliage of 'Firepower'. Blush Pink™ will remain compact at maturity with a height of 2'-2.5' and a width of 2.5'-3'.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-10
Plant Use: Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Sun
Water Requirements: Medium

Here are some more pictures of this beauty!

Here I am holding the first one gallon, this is from the original liner found back in July of 2005.

Our first rooted crop!

Our first large crop of liners, look at that color!

Here is a comparison of Firepower, left, Blush Pink right.

Our first 3 gallon crop.

The color remains all year, this is taken in July.

and finally, the winter color is just as nice as Firepower.

Want to know more? contact me at April@MGNLiners.com

Monday, July 13, 2009

Today's Harvest

We the victory garden is producing nicely. Today we harvested the first watermelon. We popped it into the fridge and the employees had a nice treat in the afternoon. Things are slow here but I have managed to keep myself busy mainly by trying to grow new plants, some successes followed by a few failures. It is so sad to see good plants die but this Texas heat has not let up! We have been nearly 100 for 3 weeks now, the heat is just so intense. Many plants can look good in the Spring and Fall here but the real test is the summer. If it can't survive a Texas summer then we are not able to add it to our product line unless we can finish fast before the heat hits. So far most plants are holding up with the exception of some Agapanthus, had a little meltdown on some of those! Other things on my plate include getting ready for 2 tradeshows in August and redesigning the Web site....ahhh yes busy. Our first patented plant is set to release at TNLA Expo so we are super excited about that. I will write about that one tomorrow!

Friday, June 26, 2009

HOT Friday

Well I decided today is a great day to spend some quality time in my office since it will be another day of record breaking heat. Yesterday I spent some quality time at Schlitterbaun in New Braunfels, gotta escape the heat somehow! I hate thinking about the effects this heat has on our poor little plants. Already we have seen some problems in shipping. It is topping a little over 100 degrees each day then the plants get stuffed into a box and put on a freight truck, we may have to hold some shipments back if this heat continues. We hate when good plants die :-( On a lighter note the garden is a buzz, the honey bees are alive and happily pollinating our melons, cucumbers and watermelons. I never knew watermelons grew so quickly, maybe by Monday we can harvest! Also in the garden we planted some of our new Nandinas for some side by side comparisons. These are in full sun so they are not the prettiest but they are not half bad. The only problem is the cucumbers are attacking the Nandina Flirt, oh decisions, cut back the cucumber or let it swallow the Nandina? Depends on how hungry I am when I make that decision, LOL!

The month of July will be spent on getting crops ready for Fall as well as getting everything ready for the 2 tradeshows we exhibit at, the TNLA Expo and the Farwest show. The Expo is in Texas so we go all out at this one since we can ship things on our truck. These orange chairs are just a part of what has been started on. It is going to be fun! Also I will be working on the new MGN liner web site. We hope to bring new and exciting things to the site now that my focus will all be on liners. My deadline for our first rollout is August 3rd, I would say the 1st but that is a Saturday! I have many ideas so we will get the site up and going then add features as we go, if you have ideas let me know and I will see if we can implement them...I am not an expert so there are a few things I cannot do.

Some other things we are trying is holding a special of the week on Twitter. We have several followers now and we hope to get many more in the future. Other new things include our expanded perennial line which has gone over nicely. We are still working on a product line, subtracting and adding as we go, eventually we will find a group we like....then we will find new plants to add and change it again. That's what keeps things interesting for us here and we hope for our customers as well.

Time to go enjoy this HOT Friday as I sip on my Triple Venti Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte, yes!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't Spray it, Eat it!

I was watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the travel channel, you know the guy that will eat anything. Anyway it was his survival special and interestingly enough I actually learned something. Purslane is edible, yes you know the weed you keep pulling and spraying. Well after I saw the show I did some research. Not only is it edible but it is really good for you. On the show he made a salad with it, said if you mash it it was like olive oil dressing. The reason for this is all of the Omega-3 fatty acids. That is not the only thing good, it is also high in vitamin C. So save money on that grocery bill and eat what is already available for FREE! Mmmmm Purslane!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Whew wee!

Well the dog days of summer are nearly upon us. It has gotten close to 100F here in the Houston area already! The heat index is already well above 100F, ouch! To avoid the heat I am spending some more time in the office ordering seeds for products we will offer in the Fall, just a few we received today in the picture. This spring we started to offer a whole line of perennial products, most in a larger cell size so they the finish fast. Even in the slow economy we saw some good movement so we are adding to our selections so our customers will have some great items to choose from by late summer. One new item will be ornamental peppers. We hope to have these ready in time for our customers to get them ready for their fall program. We noticed that consumers are looking for color items now, maybe holding back on shrub purchases or it could be the slow housing market makes those shrub needs go down. In any case we like color too so look for new items on our continuously evolving availability.

Also I will be working on a new Web site for the liner division. More to come later as I get further into this project. Basically we feel we can better cater to our customers by having a separate site from the container division at the nursery. Hopefully it will help reduce the confusion customers can have when calling about products. I hope to finish this before the TNLA Expo, keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Plants!!

There is nothing better to boast your day than a batch of new plants arriving at the doorstep. With the economy as crummy as it has been it feels like everyone has had the life sucked out of them. My philosophy is to trial new plants in times like these. Once the economy springs back up we will be ready with all sorts of goodies to tickle your fancy. Today's goodies were a batch of Agapanthus 'Gold Strike' from New Zealand. They were sent bareroot so we will replant them outside in the greenhouse. I already have these going in the lab but I am going to try them both ways and see which way gets us the most plants the quickest. It is a beautiful plant so it is worth the work. I am hoping sometime in 2010 we will have some available.....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Garden progress

Here is a photo of the garden I took today. It is progressing very nicely. In fact I hear while I was on vacation several employees had a few snacks! I need to find a good liquid feed organic fertlizer, that will be on the agenda today, things are looking a little hungry. So far we have tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, blackberries, blueberries, sage, rosemary, lavender, cilantro and peppers to munch on...when they are ready, which is sometime soon I hope!

-- Post From My iPhone