High on the winter to-do list at Frysville Farms: reglaze one of the greenhouses.
The timing is right. It’s bitter cold and outdoors, most plants are dormant.
Yet the planting and propagating continues year-round at this Ephrata Township farm, keeping the dozen greenhouses filled. Re-covering the greenhouse will have to wait.
One of Frysville Farms’ greenhouses gets plenty of traffic as a seasonal retail store. It’s filled with mums in the fall, poinsettias during the holidays plus annuals and perennials in the spring, all grown on-site. Outside that space, the work continues to grow more than a million plants.
“These plants don’t take place by accident,” co-owner Anthony Fry says. “It’s a well-orchestrated grower plan to go from seedlings and seeds and cuttings to finished product.”
This winter, LNP | LancasterOnline will share more about some of the county’s greenhouses. These plant producers are part of Lancaster County’s agriculture industry. Their crops can brighten cold winter days.
On a recent cold day, Fry pointed out the crops in different stages of growth. One house had hundreds of baskets planted with three-color mixes of million bells (also known as calibrachoa) along with rows of young gerber daisies.
Another house is the first stop for thousands of cuttings grown around the world. Once the spring plant propagation slows, this is where 20,000 begonias will go from cuttings to retail-sized pots. They’ll be sold just in time to be replaced by mini mums.
“People have no concept of what goes on during the wintertime with regards to this dance that we do in the greenhouse,” Fry says.
The family business goes back several generations. These days, brothers Anthony, Vince and Simon own Frysville Farms. They share duties and each brother has his own niche. Anthony focuses on inside crops, he says. Simon covers sales and the logistics of getting the plants to customers. Vincent handles fall crops, like mums.
The farming family started growing crownvetch to plant along highways in the 1960s. They built their first greenhouses at the time.
“We found out that we might as well make a living out of them, since we had them and spring wasn’t the only time that we could grow a crop,” Anthony Fry says. “We started right in on poinsettias.”
They’ve grown vegetable plants and flowers through the years.
Today, the farm raises 40-50 types of plants with a focus on million bells baskets and gerber daisies.
In the first weeks of the new year, many spring flowers start as cuttings. Each week, more plants fill tables or move overhead in hanging baskets, like purple winter violets. Work on holiday poinsettias starts in March and mums not too long later.
In the propagation area, Fry picks up a tiny dahlia plant. It arrived as a shoot topped by a few leaves. Plant it into soil and the stem grows roots and thrives.
Some of the cuttings are so fine, he marvels at how some of the crew can “stick” them into trays.
He pinches a leggy stem from a fuchsia basket.
“These were pinched last week and occasionally, you’ll get a shoot like this, that’s going to be too long for its own good,” he says.
Pinching the plant sends the growth to the center of the basket, making a fuller plant. The plants in the basket were started around Thanksgiving, a little earlier than necessary.
“We like growing what I like to call a spectacular fuchsia that’s the size of an umbrella,” Fry says. “It takes a little more time to do that.”
If things go as planned, the baskets should reach umbrella size by Mother’s Day.
The dahlias, verbena, sweet potato vine, petunias and more should be ready by April into June when they’ll head to the on-site retail store or to garden centers, nurseries and other sellers up to 200 miles away.
Many of the crops have been grown for years. Others are on the new side.
Silver Strand didelta is a nice addition for planters and window boxes, a trailing plant with a striking silver color, Fry says.
Penn State Flower Trials evaluated the plant in its trials near Landisville over the past two years. While Silver Strand had limited blooms, the plant’s silver foliage stood up to summer heat and sun. It had a perfect score at the last judging of 2020, close to Labor Day.
Another new plant is a guacamole Swedish ivy. The leaves, gold with green splotches, make it a great foliage plant around the holidays, Fry says.
Maybe by then, that greenhouse will be reglazed.