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Seeds of spring: Season arrives early in greenhouses

(From left) Mary Pehan, Kris Peterson and Dorothy Hlinsky share a laugh while transplanting sweet potato vines at Anderson Florist and Greenhouse in Alexandria Tuesday. Although it was snowing outside, Tuesday marked the first day of spring. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)1 / 2
Kris Peterson waters sweet potato vines in one of the greenhouses at Anderson Florist and Greenhouse in Alexandria Tuesday. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)2 / 2

Although a fresh snowfall made Tuesday look more like winter than the first day of spring, inside local greenhouses it was warm and humid — with green, growing plants everywhere.

"It's nice to be in the greenhouse, especially when the sun comes out," said Bryce Brickweg, greenhouse manager at Colorful Seasons Garden Center in Alexandria. "It's great to be in your T-shirt and get your hands dirty."

According to Brickweg, the garden center will start planting 10,000 annuals this week, and expects to plant another 10,000 to 20,000 each week for the next two months. Annuals come in as rooted cuttings or "plugs," which are re-planted in larger containers to grow in the greenhouses until they are sold. Vegetables will also be planted in about two weeks, he said.

In addition to the store's main greenhouses on Dakota Street, Colorful Seasons also has about 15 other greenhouses in the area where plants are grown before being moved to the retail location. Other than a small section of the main greenhouse, all others are shut down during the winter and are being opened for the summer now.

At Anderson Florist and Greenhouse in Alexandria, employees are busy planting seeds and repotting plants. Owners Rod and Lori Schultz explained that about 75 to 80 percent of plants they sell are grown from seed right in their greenhouses, with some being planted right after Christmas. Currently, employees are planting seed for flowers such as marigolds and petunias, which they expect to be ready by April or early May.

"We like to have it blooming by Mother's Day," Rod said.

Anderson Florist, on 6th Ave. East, has been part of the community for 101 years, and Rod and Lori have owned it for the past 16 years. Although it can be a lot of work, Lori said there are times when it is really nice being in the greenhouse.

"I love being in here when it's quiet," she said.

It won't be quiet much longer. Both Brickweg and the Schultz' noted that the time around Mother's Day to Memorial Day is their busiest of the year for greenhouse plants, with things slowing down quite a bit from July through September.

"Over the next eight weeks it's just planting," Brickweg added. "It's the growing season now."

It's also spring — even if we do have to keep reminding ourselves of that fact when we look outside.