Nature gets a helping hand

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    Lakeside Greenhouse located in Northwood.

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  • Lakeside Greenhouse located in Northwood.
    Lakeside Greenhouse located in Northwood.

    Nature unfolds at her own pace, except in a greenhouse where she’s on a strict schedule.

    At Lakewood Greenhouse in Northwood, floral development under seven acres of glass is wrangled by three generations of the Krueger family. They’re wholesalers, growing plants for holidays and selling to 500 florists, garden centers including Black Diamond and The Andersons, and grocery stores such as Kroger, within a 200-mile radius.

    “It has to do with timing more than anything,” said Walter Krueger, Jr., who’s run the show for 24 years.

    He’ll ship 10,000 Silver Heart for Valentine’s Day. It’s a relatively new variety of cyclamen in several colors with heart-shaped leaves patterned silvery gray and green. Seeds are bred in France, grown in California for several months, then shipped to greenhouses as 1½-inch starter “plugs” bearing about five leaves. Some of Lakewood’s nearly 50 employees plant them, and 16 weeks later, they’re ready for market.

    For Easter, Lakewood’s preparing more than 20,000 pots of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and crocus bulbs purchased from Holland and planted here in October. After developing some roots, they’re put in cool storage for six weeks. In January, at weekly intervals, they’re moved into 55 to 60-degree greenhouses and begin to grow, said Mr. Krueger, Jr., past president of the Maumee Valley Growers.

    Lakewood was established in the late 1890s on the east end of what’s now the High Level Bridge, at Clark and Nevada streets, by William Krueger, who grew roses, peonies, and sweet peas for flower shops. About 1905, he bought land about three miles away in Northwood.

    His son, Walter Krueger, Sr., earned a floriculture degree in the early 1940s at Ohio State University, which had the premier program in the country. He grew carnations and chrysanthemums. In the mid-1960s, he transformed the business from cut flowers to potted holiday plants and at 93, he walks the greenhouses regularly, noting whether various plants are on schedule.

    Lakeside Greenhouse owner, Walter Kruger Jr. checks the Cyclamen plants for Valentines Day.
    Lakeside Greenhouse owner, Walter Kruger Jr. checks the Cyclamen plants for Valentines Day.

    “I think once you get growing in your blood it’s hard to get it out,” said Mr. Krueger, Jr.

    The most critical crop is being carefully monitored: 40,000 white Easter and 10,000 colorful Asiatic and Oriental lilies.

    “We have a 10-day window to market them,” he said. Three to a pot, each bulb will sport five to seven flowers on stalks retailers expect to be 18- 24 inches tall.

    This year there’s a wrinkle: lily bulbs arrived stressed and stunted because of two cold, wet winters in the tiny microclimate where they’re grown: the southern Oregon/northern California coast. They needed intervention, so after their six weeks of chilling, thousands of pots were set on tables under hoops covered with plastic sheeting, which raised the temperature underneath to a humid 80 degrees. Those growing too fast will be slowed by dropping the temperature to 50 degrees for at least two and a half hours in the morning.

    “Our goal is to get them all to the same stage,” he said. Lilies can be planted outside in sunny locations after Mother’s Day.

    Also for Easter, Lakewood grows pink and blue hydrangeas, started in Oregon and arriving here as 4-month-old woody cuttings, planted and nurtured for another 10 months. These hydrangeas can be transplanted outside.

    Contact Tahree Lane at: or 419-724-6075.