Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hole Digger Discusses Spuria Iris

OK, so I'm told I have to contribute to this blog. I'm told everyone has to. Forget the fact that I am cheap labor. I do most of the digging, planting, potting, spraying, etc. I must admit the wife helps but not with the heavy stuff.

I'm told by the "think tank" that I could write something while I'm on break. Break, what break? So pay no attention to the sentence structure or spelling.

If I could do that I wouldn't be a hole digger!

Today we just received our last shipment of iris from the west coast. Hundreds of Siberian iris and one really different one, Iris Monnieri. It is in the spuria iris family. First described in 1808, it was found growing in Versailles where it was called Iris of Rhodes.

Spuria iris are some of the tallest of iris, up to 4 1/2' originating in the Mediterranean. They are grown in England and California, but rarely seen in New Jersey (yes, they can grow here.) The flower is large and is similar to the Dutch iris but bigger and is a very long lasting cut flower. The plant does well for years and years without dividing.

The work never ends...

John "Hole Digger" Gulish

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Small Business Seminar

Greetings from the west coast. Jeremy the marketing director and English major has been eliciting all of us to add contributions to the blog. The real triumph will be when Dad embraces the blog and begins adding planting and growing tips. Of course he may be too important and use Jeremy as his ghost writer, all of the presidential candidates do it, why not him?

I am in Washington state and am a little removed from the physical location of the farm, however I am keeping involved in the business development partly as an interested family member and partly as a real life application of what I am learning in my current MBA program.

With introductions complete, let me get to the heart of my post. I attended a free seminar geared toward small business owners in Washington state this weekend. The Small Business Administration and IRS were there in force with tips as well as a multitude of marketing, IT and consulting firms with advice for the small business owner.

I brought three main point away from the seminar along with numerous ideas to improve the farm and the business with it.

1. Develop a business plan-the business plan is a great management tool to identify company strengths and weaknesses. It help devise ways to address the weaknesses, helps determine your market audience and how to reach them. It also forces a business owner to take a long term financial view of the business.

2. Find out your market niche. Basically what makes your business different than the multitude of other businesses out there. Why are you special. At Pittsgrove we are the only retail peony grower we could find in NJ and we are only aware of a few retail iris farms. Our goal is to make a trip to Pittsgrove Farms an experience unlike any other iris farm in the area through beautiful grounds and unique plant offerings. We believe there is a market for this type of gardening experience in NJ and eastern PA. This is where we need to solicit information from the local gardening community, what are we lacking in NJ and PA. What do you as the gardener want to see and experience at a garden? We are listening and open to a variety of ideas.

3. There is a lot of free and low price help available to the small business owner. The SBA offers free confidential one-on-one counseling to the small business owner. They also have free online tutorials and training and low cost seminars on a multitude of topics. Definitely a great resource to improve operations.

Lots of fun building a new business at least while I am not relying on it for a paycheck it is lots of fun. I understand, it's a bit more stressful once you need that paycheck.

Cinema Botanica (the Cinematic Trailer)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Green Thumb Up For The Farm in Green Village

So following my baptism this Saturday (yes, 28 years late but better late than never) my father and I took a little trip over to The Farm at Green Village. For those of you that don't know, which I imagine is most, Green Village is a tiny little town outside Madison. It is tucked away in countryside that is speckled with multi-million dollar estates.

First off, considering that my father owned a garden center for most of his life, he has the right to be a tough critic. That said, he/we had very few bad things to say about the garden center. You could tell it was early September as the garden center was in a bit of a wind down cycle but nonetheless still had a great variety of plants.

One thing you can appreciate about garden centers in extremely affluent areas in that they have plants that you are rarely ever going to find for sale. Huge pots of elephant ears, rosemary, papyrus and three-foot-tall begonias that aren't going to winter over outside in Zone 6. Fortunately the garden center sells to a clientelle that either has atriums to house these plants for winter or frankly don't mind spending a few hundred dollars to enjoy their plants until winter.

That being said, nothing was cheap at the garden center but I suppose there isn't any need to be - Home Depot and Wal-mart aren't losing any business here. I think the $13,000 fountain and Japanese maples that cost more than my car make their target market tastefully obvious.

One of the biggest compliments to "The Farm" was that we were asked two times within 20 minutes if we needed help. But most impressive was that each salesperson smiled, nodded and simply said, "let me know if you need any help." This to me was the thing they did better than anything else. Unfortunately, I usually find customer service either non-existant or set on making the hard sell.

My father said it simply, "I really have nothing bad to say..."