Food. Water. Shelter.

I will make no bones about it.  Sourcing great annual planting was excellent May 10th of this year-it has become tougher every day that has gone by.  I like planting a fresh crop, the rooting and top growth perfect for transplant-I like all those conditions than almost never come to be.  We had an inordinately warm spring.  Plants under glass-multiply that warm by 10. This means annual plants growing in excess of 100mph; seizing that brief moment was the big idea of the annual planting season. Unfortunately I cannot plant 77 projects in a week.  So much for carpe diem.  There is more time involved in planting my clients up than either of us like.  You no doubt are getting tired of reading about it-but this blog is about what I do, and when I do it-so bear with me. A too hot early season has meant a lot of shopping on my part. I plant good material-nothing less, nothing questionable.  My June plantings-not so much great plant material is available. A client suggested I visit Deneweths.  As I had never been there, I was intrigued. I showed up at their door last Sunday at 9 am.  

Wow does not begin to describe what I saw.  As their greenhouses are located across the street from a residential neighborhood, my guess is that this huge growing range and giant retail greenhouse has been here a good many years.  I would guess a family owed and operated business.  Though I was a first time visitor, I had no problem getting oriented.  They make much of written signage and suggestion.  I was just about the first person there-having this giant place virtually to myself-I felt like I was on holiday.  My first glimpse-breathtaking. 

For better or for worse, I scrutinize what I see. That is much about what my clients pay me for; if I cannot tell the difference between a well grown plant, and a poor one, if I cannot tell the difference between a good move and a poor one-why would they have me?  This football field and more under glass had beautiful, fresh, compact and healthy plants and baskets-from sea to shining sea. Note the date-not May 10-this was June 13.  I was impressed, and excited.  

I have never seen hanging baskets of million bells of this caliber.  I am somewhat envious-I have a tough time getting them to grow.  They abhor alkaline soil-even limey water can make them sicken, yellow, and die.  Everywhere to be seen, perfectly grown million bells baskets in mouth watering color combinations-I was enchanted. 

Growing plants under glass for a specific market and specific time frame-I do not have the nerve for it. It would surely kill me-the worry.  Annual plants are a highly perishable crop.  The work to produce them-enormous.  The price of each 4″ pot, flat, or basket-not so much.  The sure hand here-astonishing.  Annual plants need germinating, transplanting from cutting plugs, the right food-the right water.  And that shelter from that storm that might accurately be described as a Michigan spring.  Every flat and 4 inch pot-perfect for transplant.  I was incredibly impressed. 

Every place I looked, every plant was healthy, happy-and asking for a home.  Had I brought a semi truck, I would have stuffed it full. Having had my fill of overgrown, anemic and questionable plants, I was enchanted to visit a place that understood clearly what it takes to grow beautiful plants, and steadfastly brought their weight to bear- keeping beautiful plants available every day, routinely, to anyone who had occasion to visit.  Five weeks in aun unseasonably warm spring-a lifetime, if you are an annual grower. 

Spacing is an important issue with annual growing.  Every grower wants any given bench to host as many plants as possible, but plants placed placed too close together suffer.  No air.  No room to grow.  Next up-those slimy rotting leaves, and fungus.  The spacing here-excellent for the plants. There is no doubt in my mind that the person who owns and runs this greenhouse has a big love for plants-first and foremost.  

This petunia-I have never seen it before.  I could not take my eyes off of it. Seeing this petunia in prduction and for sale tells me that Deneweth’s makes it their business to attend plant trials, look at new varieties-and grow what they think looks fresh and beautiful and will do well. Attending and assessing trial gardens-a considerable amount of work no plant shopper ever sees.  Independent greenhouses do lots of work over and above what you might see.  Please-support them!   

Gardening is a dirty business. But when I shop, I give high marks to a clean place.  My shop-I insist that it be clean.  Sunday morning at Deneweth’s-there was a cleaning crew.  Every aisle was water swept clean of debris. This level of clean-there is a person in charge who takes great pride in their business.  Great pride-I would suggest that you patronize businesses that work this hard to be this great.        

The million bells baskets-miraculous.  The color combinations-striking.  Should Deneweth’s not be dreaming up these combinations on their own, they care enough about making a quality product available to get help designing.  I really like this point of view.  They clearly know how to grow. That they would seek help designing, pairing, combining-their work is no doubt to your advantage.

Every plant had signage with the particulars.  Any serious gardener could read, and make a decision, based on a wealth of information, succintly written.  I learned a few things I did not know,  from these cards.  Independent garden centers-How I respect how they deliver food, water, and shelter!  I would urge you to buy from them, and others in your neighborhood.   Deneweths-out M-59 from Pontiac to Hayes, north up Hayes to 22 Mile-go right. They are eminently worth the visit.  

Heavenly-the flowers.


  1. Wow! You’ve inspired me to try and find a place like this near Chicago! There has to be one, right? What did you end up buying?

    And also, I’d love to know what camera you use for your gorgeous photos. It’s time for a new one and I’m asking everyone I know who takes good pictures what I should buy. Thanks.

  2. dave bockman says

    Trish, although it’s been a few years since I lived and worked in Chicago, I always had good luck with Sid’s:

  3. Deborah, I there a name attached to that petunia?

  4. I think it is a cappuccino potunia, a new color in the pot petunias. I have one planted in a mixed pot.

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