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TOP STORY — June 2017

Dulaney’s Greenhouse staying on path of diversity

 

By JANE W. GRAHAM
AFP Correspondent


FLOYD, Va. —
Growth and change are keystones at Dulaney’s Greenhouse, a short distance out of town on the way to Roanoke. Sara and Glenn Dulaney have developed the diversified business they started in 1982 to grow both ornamental and edible crops.
More change is coming next year as the business adds more perennials to its offerings of ornamentals. Sara and her new employee, Leah Rodriguez, talked about the plans they are making on a bright June morning as business picked up after days of rain.
Leah is looking forward to the birth of her third child while working and searching for new plants for the business while studying greenhouse management at Western Virginia Community College.
Sara said she was a florist in Floyd and her husband was employed at Hollingsworth and Voss, a manufacturing firm, when she asked him to build her a greenhouse to store her supplies for the dish gardens she was making.
Soon after they had the greenhouse, an individual asked them to grow their tomato and pepper plants for the upcoming season.
When the plants were ready to go to the customer, he learned his partner had also ordered plants from another supplier and the Dulaneys found themselves with a greenhouse full of plants and no market.
Sara said she tried leaving a quart jar at the business and making the plants available with customers paying on the honor system.
It didn’t work, so they advertised in the local newspaper and were able to sell the plants.
That miscommunication with their first big client led to more business and the Dulaneys were able to eventually leave their jobs and focus on their horticulture business full time.
They now have 12 greenhouses and 25 acres of produce which they sell at area farmers’ markets.
Their offerings include annuals perennials, vegetables and herbs. Sara said she has seen changes in what customers want in the years she has sold plants.
Large plants already in bloom have replaced bedding plants in popularity.
She said people seem to want instant beauty rather than plants they can watch develop and bloom.
“There has been a big change,” she said. “In vegetables people are going to old-timey plants.”
She said they are asking more questions about the plants, sprays, organic methods and GMOs.
They do not use growth regulators, she said and though the crops are not Certified Organic, they manage the vegetable plants using organic practices.
Growing heirloom plants is one of their specialties. They currently have 40 varieties.
Sara said they usually sell about 3,000 hanging baskets every spring.
She said people have been hesitant to buy the baskets this year due to the heavy rains and strong winds the area has experienced most of the spring.
Waste is not an option at this business, Sara said.
They plant anything that is left over after they stop selling flower and vegetable plants for the season.
They grow pumpkins which are then crafted with painted faces and characters for the fall markets.
They also buy evergreen tippings and make Christmas wreaths.
These are marketed primarily to landscapers who have contracts to provide decoration in subdivisions.
Leah who is excited about a career in the business said she was inspired by her mother and by her former employer Jim Snyder at nearby River Bend Nursery.
She applied for a small economic development grant with the goal of opening her own business but found that was a little more than she had anticipated.
She decided she could help the Dulaneys grow their business instead
“I’ve never enjoyed working somewhere so much,” Leah said.
The business now offers between 20 and 30 perennials.
Sara said their goal is to double that number.
Leah added that iris are her favorite perennial.
She said she dreams of one day having a huge selection of this delightful plant.