Greenhouse swap at Forest Grove High School gives horticulturists a few growing pains, but the legendary sale will go on
Forget greenhouse gases. Diane Van Dyke just wants the heat to come on - and turn off - at the right time.
Van Dyke, who this spring took over for longtime former horticulture teacher Charlie Vandehey as the person watching over plant and flower-growing operations at Forest Grove High School, is looking forward to next Thursday, when the annual plant sale bursts forth anew.
The sale, which always occurs just before Mother's Day and typically has eager flower-buyers standing in a serpentine line around the east side of the school, is continuing this year despite the relocation of two greenhouses to make way for a new science wing being constructed over the summer.
Plant palooza will go on for six days - May 3 to 5 and 9 to 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - at FGHS, 1401 Nichols Lane. Over the next eight days, however, Van Dyke will be happy to see the 35,000 plants thrive.
'A little stressful'
'It's been just a little bit stressful,' Van Dyke, who's shepherding student gardeners through the plant sale process, said last week. 'Until we have our two new greenhouses up and running, the two old greenhouses have been giving us a few challenges.'
Through a 'comedy of quirks,' she noted, the thermostat in one of the giant plant incubators and the heater in the other 'were giving us fits.' Van Dyke and others have been running interference, making sure the tender shoots and buds remained vital, not just viable.
Her cadre of green-thumbed students, who are paid for their efforts, includes John Cunningham, Yenefer Garcia, Tyler Glineck, Trevor Glynn and Kendell Hall. They, along with four or five more volunteers who stop by the greenhouses most days after classes, have been busy watering, fertilizing and otherwise coaxing the plants into hardiness.
Through a lot of hard work and exponentially increasing know-how, they've got hanging baskets, bedding plants, peppers and tomato starts and a colorful cornucopia of flowers - from brights to pastels and everything in between - growing strong.
Hall, a junior who's worked on the plant sale since he was a freshman, said he hoped community members would 'come out and support' the program so it can continue into the future. Agriculture and FFA programs at FGHS were hit hard by district budget cuts last year, he noted.
'With the budget cuts we're more on our own now,' said Hall, 18. 'This is really just our own doo-dah now.'
Plants go to other schools
Viking plant purveyors have set aside between 4,000 and 5,000 plants for young horticulturists in Banks, Gaston, Knappa and Tillamook, Van Dyke added. 'They purchase plugs from us so they can have their programs too,' she noted.
And, the FGHS program has once again prepared 100 hanging baskets to be hung from light posts around Forest Grove, beautifying the downtown area throughout the spring and summer months. Students and their adult mentors also grow flowers for Rotary and Lions clubs in town.
The plant sale people have even created a Facebook page, called FG High School Viking Plants, to promote their project.
'One hundred City baskets built, check; [a] multitude of twelve-inch baskets hanging happily, check; fourteen and sixteen-inch pulp baskets madly blooming, check, premium annuals and six packs growing great guns,' an April 5 post read.
It hasn't exactly been an ideal spring for plant growers, with bouts of driving rain, wind and hail mucking up weather forecasts in western Washington County. Whenever temperatures dipped into the 30s and 40s in recent weeks, Van Dyke made sure the heaters were in working order and a proper degree of rainforest-like humidity issued forth inside the greenhouses.
Last weekend, with the weather turning toasty, she ensured the heat machines were taken offline.
'The plants are reaching their peek of perfection in spite of these malfunctions,' said Van Dyke, who encouraged community members to come out to next week's sale to 'see what's new out in the greenhouses' and view the school's shiny new greenhouse duo.
'Our two good 'old' houses have been re-skinned and updated,' said Van Dyke. 'It's been a major construction zone with electricians, plumbers and general contractors all working to get the greenhouses done.'
She has confidence in the tick-tock-tick of the popular sale's 2012 timetable, though.
'It will continue to be a bit crazy around here as we move all the baskets and bedding plants to the new houses by the plant sale opening,' Van Dyke noted. 'But it's very exciting, and when folks come out to the plant sale we will be showing off just a little bit!'