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Published: Tuesday, 9/20/2005

It's a mixed bouquet for sales of autumn plants at area stores

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Berlin Gore rearranges ferns at Ben Sell Green House, where chrysanthemums have sold briskly. Berlin Gore rearranges ferns at Ben Sell Green House, where chrysanthemums have sold briskly.
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The last of summer's heat delayed chrysanthemum blooms for some local growers and garden centers, and kept some gardeners away.

But some businesses are having brisk sales with the colorful fall perennial.

With huge sales over Labor Day weekend, for example, mum purchases at Barrett's Showplace Gardens in Adrian are up 25 percent from last year, said Laura Bateson, grower.

"The mums have been flying out the door," she said, adding that customers tired of heat-withered annuals started asking about mums in August. "People start asking for them earlier and earlier every year."

Chrysanthemum sales are down 10 percent at The Andersons Inc. stores for a variety of reasons, including hot and dry weather and less disposable income because of high gas prices, an official said.

Mums provide dramatic shots of garden color in autumn.
Mums provide dramatic shots of garden color in autumn.
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Plus, after selling 50,000 mums last year - 15,000 more than normal - the Maumee business has a tough record to meet, much less beat, said Terry Irmen, lawn and garden/nursery product buyer for the retailer.

With autumn beginning this week, mums, asters, spring-flowering bulbs, pansies that winter over, shrubs, trees, and other species suitable for fall planting are being offered by local retailers with mixed results.

Customers have been buying mums at Ben Sell Green House in Toledo for a couple of weeks and are buying more asters for late-season color, said Stephanie Scully, salesman. Mums generally can be planted into November, she said.

"Most people are getting in the spirit," Ms. Scully said of autumn.

Yet those who plant tulips, hyacinths, and other bulbs for spring haven't quite found it, some retailers said.

Bulb sales are down both at Barrett's Showplace and The Andersons, at least in part because recent hot and dry weather doesn't spur gardeners to start planning for spring, officials said.

Even though bulbs shouldn't be planted until after the first frost, and ideally not until November so there is no risk they will root, selection is best earlier in the season, Mr. Irmen said.

The Andersons annually buys $500,000 worth of bulbs and is offering about 275 varieties, including 150 tulips. "It's a pretty significant business for our operation," said Mr. Irmen.

Officials in the bulb industry consider The Andersons to be the largest bulb retailer nationwide, he added.

Fall also is a good time to plant trees and shrubs, and Icicle Pansies that rebloom in spring are becoming more popular, said Gene Klotz, owner of Klotz Floral Gift & Garden Center in Bowling Green.

Although mum blooms are about two weeks behind this year at Barrow's Greenhouse in Toledo, owner John Barrow said he doesn't foresee a problem selling this year's crop. "As fast as they bloom, we sell them," he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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