A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to visit Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, Michigan. Spring Meadow is the home of “woody” shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, of the Proven Winners ColorChoice brands. Ryan McGrath, their Marketing & PR Specialist, took my husband, daughter, granddaughter, and me on a private tour of this enormous state-of-the-art facility.
We were treated to long strolls through multiple greenhouses and down walkways edged with familiar and full-grown Proven Winners ColorChoice shrubs. One of my all-time favorites was there, trimmed into a small tree. It was decked out in its black deeply cut foliage showing why it is nicknamed the poor man’s Japanese maple (Black Lace Sambucus).
When I was there in October, this was the colorful site in one of the greenhouses. These are all cuttings being rooted to supply Spring Meadow’s 3,600 wholesale growers in the United States and Canada. But this is only one of the greenhouses.
According to Ryan, “Our propagation facilities include over 20 acres of greenhouses. We have 30 acres dedicated to stock plants*, 8 acres of Cravo® retractable roof greenhouses, and 3 acres of Westbrook open roof greenhouses, two of which are flood floor irrigated. High pressure fog systems, traveling booms, bottom heat floors, and computerized controls create an optimum propagation environment.”
The greenhouses are never out of work. In the spring and summer, March to September, softwood cuttings are stuck. October to February the hardwood cuttings are under glass. Ryan says, “At peak production, we can stick and process up to 90,000 cuttings per day direct stuck in a 32-cell tray at an average rate of 30 flats per man-hour.” Whew! Even though roots develop year-round, Ryan explains, "We ship only actively growing plants from mid-April to October. These started plants all go to growers who raise them up into salable shrubbery.
In the near future, more plants will be in production. Another state-of-the-art greenhouse is going up and will add another 1.3 acres of propagation range to the already huge facility. As you can see by the photo, this is not your ordinary little backyard glasshouse. Contrary to what my husband might think, even I could not fill up one of these monster houses.
Once the shrubs are rooted, they then go through a mostly automated system that trims, cuts them loose, separates the dead from the good, and divides them into three grades. This grading machine is a TTA PlugSorter ECO although Ryan reminds us, “Keep in mind ours is custom engineered just for us.” This was a whole lot of fun to watch in person. There is a video of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSAXgt2odSs&feature=player_embedded
Spring Meadow Nursery not only propagates, their plant hunters also search out new plants through travels to other countries and by encouraging plant developers at home. If you see a shrub in a white pot with a big PW on the side, you know there are years of research and development behind it. For myself, I just like what they offer in new and unusual plants that usually thrive in my garden. That’s all any gardener wants.
*These shrubs supply all those cuttings for the greenhouses-Anne