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Greenhouses play catch-up


Sam and Emily Ashley, 8-year-old twins, help their mother, Sophie Ashley, choose flowers at Schweizer Farm and Greenhouse in Oregon. Mother's Day brought the business sunshine and strong sales.

The Blade/Lori King
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Warmer weather is translating into rosy sales for Schweizer Fruit Farm and Greenhouse in Oregon.

Owner Bill Schweizer said a dreary forecast during the last few weeks discouraged gardeners from buying plants and materials for their yards.

However, a sunny Mother's Day last weekend, combined with shoppers looking for last-minute gifts, brought a boost to Schweizer Farm's sales.

"Mother's Day was a world better than last year," Mr. Schweizer said. "Last year, Mother's Day weekend was cold and wet, and probably was one of the poorest Mother's Days we've ever had."

Local greenhouses say the cold start to spring caused slow sales for the first part of the season. However, many of them see business picking up with the area temperatures -- a trend they hope will continue through the summer.

Mark Hecklinger, owner of Hecklinger Greenhouse Inc. in Toledo, had a similar increase in business last weekend, which he also attributed to more favorable weather.

"Every place that we sent to, we had record-breaking weekends," said Mr. Hecklinger, whose greenhouse is a wholesaler for area gardening stores. "I think that people are still buying the products."

While his sales were affected by earlier rains this year, he said, business will see a sustained boost if the sun sticks around.

"We're making a comeback," Mr. Hecklinger said. "It's taking off right now. Hopefully, there's enough time to catch up."

Greenhouses in Ohio and Michigan have had growing business in the last couple years.

Wholesale sales of garden bedding, garden plants, potted plants, and other floriculture products reached $194.4 million in Ohio last year, up from $184.7 million in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Wholesale floriculture sales in Michigan reached $389 million in 2010, up from $380.2 million the previous year, the USDA said.

Bob Schmidt of Schmidt Bros. Inc., a wholesaler in Swanton that sells to The Andersons and other retailers, noticed that stores seemed to order more inventory for this year's Mother's Day than last year. He attributes the increase, in part, to recent spring temperatures.

"The economy doesn't seem to affect us," Mr. Schmidt said. "It's the weather."

Schmidt Bros. has customers in Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Brock's Greenhouse in Lambertville, which opens to the public for Mother's Day each year, saw sales on par with 2010, manager Heather Sedlock said. Though she described last weekend as "busy," Ms. Sedlock said it appears shoppers are spending less for plants and planting materials than before the recession.

"They still want to do something for their yard, so they're still saving money to put stuff in their yard," she said. "But not as much."

While weather has a larger impact on greenhouses, Mr. Schweizer said, local gardening businesses and shoppers appear to be more upbeat about how the economy will affect this year's sales. "But so far, people seem pretty optimistic," said Mr. Schweizer, whose greenhouse does wholesale and retail business.

Contact Sheena Harrison at: or 419-724-6103.

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