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Business blooming with success

by: Photo by Susan Matheny - Miller stands among her favorite Purple Wave petunias in her side flower garden.

After retiring from a 30-year career as a head cook for the 509-J School District, Sarah Miller wanted something to do, so she started planting flowers.
   "I've always been a gardener and a flower freak," she said, noting she started by raising seven acres of flower seed in front of the house.
   In 2000, she put in a greenhouse and opened Sarah's Blooming Petunias, which 12 years later, produces 6,000 to 7,000 plants each spring for eager commercial and individual customers.
   "I'm not a sitter," Miller, 74, explained with a laugh, "I come from a family of 14, and we always worked, so all I know how to do is work."
   "Petunias are what I'm known for; they do so well here," she said, noting the brightly-colored "Purple Wave" are her favorite variety.
   "The wave petunias will go to 25-degrees in the fall, so they won't freeze out, which makes them a bonus around here," she said.
   Husband Bob pitches in on the enterprise, building seven-foot-tall, tiered, metal "petunia trees" which hold 16 pots of cascading petunias. "He's sold 75 of them," she noted.
   The one greenhouse expanded into three, and Miller's busiest time is spring.
   "I start greenhouse planting the first of March and hope to be sold out by June so I can play in my own yard," she said.
   She doesn't start selling bedding plants until mid-May when it's safe for people to put them out. "I'm only open about three weeks -- It's just about a pre-order house now," she observed.
   For 37 years, the Millers have lived on their Feather Drive farm, which features a lush lawn, daisy-lined driveway, gazebo surrounded with petunia trees, and shady evergreen trees.
   Gorgeous hanging flower baskets decorate their spacious front porch, while flowerbeds of blue delphiniums and blackeyed Susans grow below.
   On the side of the house, near the greenhouse, is a brilliant display of petunias and petunia trees, while the back yard has a relaxing waterfall, water fountain and a large patio where Miller hosts Madras Garden Club meetings, and recently held a family reunion.
   Madras flower pots
   Sarah's Blooming Petunias grew the gorgeous flowers adorning the stylish ceramic pots which recently gave a classy look to the downtown streets of Madras. Miller planted the petunias, while Judy Solso bought the pots and planted lavender from Cascade Lavender Farm in Metolius in the small pots. The beautification project was funded by the Madras Redevelopment Commission.
   "I've surely enjoyed seeing my flowers downtown. We're trying to figure out how to do hanging baskets in Madras next year," Miller said.
   She also grew the flowers which decorate the Inn at Cross Keys Station, and various Culver businesses.
   During the growing season, Miller's day begins at 6 a.m., with three to four full hours of watering in the greenhouse and her yard.
   "I put "Marathon" (insecticide) in my pots, so I don't have a bug problem, and fertilize once ever 10 days to keep them looking nice," she said.
   Deadheading, or pinching off spent blooms, will keep petunias blooming all summer long, and she spends a lot of time doing that.
   Her tips for hot weather are to water flowerpots every day, preferably in the morning, and to keep adding water until you hear or see it dripping through the pot.
   Between the greenhouses and her large yard, Miller admits she doesn't have much time for retirement.
   "It's a fulltime job, but I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing," she said, pinching off a petunia.