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A cold spring can't keep them down

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LINE THEM UP: Allison Paul works on lining up flowers. Paul works with the annuals at Garden Gate.
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GATHERING THE PLANTS: Sheryl Wilson, who is in her fourth year of working at Garden Gate, gathers some plants to put on a wagon and take out of one of the 10 growing houses on Garden Gate’s property. Culp said the employees who work there all specialize in their own departments and are ready to help anyone who needs it.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

Even though this spring has been on the cold and wet side so far, Garden Gate Greenhouse still expects to sell quite a few plants this season.

Manager Malan Culp said the business is season dependent so on a sunny day there will be a full parking lot and lines at all of the registers. But because of what Mother Nature is doing outside the window, they are a bit behind this season.

Regardless, he said his boss always reminds them that the customers will come – whether it’s mid-April or mid-May, they’ll come. Culp said they completely sell out every year.

A lot of places sell plants, Culp said, including places like Kroger and CVS. What sets Garden Gate apart from everywhere else, he said, is that they actually grow their plants from seeds, bulbs or plugs;  they don’t ship them in from places like Michigan.

With the exception of their tropical plants – which Culp said always sell very quickly – shrubs and trees, they grow all of their plants themselves, making them much more acclimated to local weather.

“Our plants are acclimated to these cool nights. Plants that are grown in a big commercial greenhouse in a heated area are under plastic,” Culp said. “(We say that makes them) become soft plants – soft as in not used to the weather conditions we’re having right now.”

Culp said Garden Gate serves customers on a wide spectrum of experience, too. Some are planting a vegetable garden for the first time and some have been growing for so long they can come to the greenhouse and share information and new ideas.

It’s interesting to talk with those who are beginner planters, he said, and they’re able to help get them started. He said they pride themselves in having knowledgeable employees, some of which are master gardeners, including Culp himself.

But he’s still learning, too.

“... Every day that I work here – without exaggeration – you pick up something that you didn’t know before,” he said.

Faye Booth has worked at the greenhouse for 10 seasons. Her favorite part about the job is helping elderly customers pick out plants.

She suggests petunias and marigolds as easy plants to work with, which also bring butterflies and bees around. She said those types of plants are good for senior citizens in assisted living because of the easy maintenance and they get a kick out of the butterflies and bees.

Culp said petunias, geraniums and boston ferns are always popular as well. As for ideal plants for the spring season, Culp said normally anything would be good to plant right now. But with the colder spring this year, pansies would be a good option, as he’s seen pansies bloom in the snow.

For anyone that may need help getting started or some suggestions, Culp said the employees all specialize in their own departments and are ready to help.

Garden Gate has a facility open to rent for events like weddings or birthday parties and has gardens in the back where they’ve held art in the garden events and several weddings, Culp said.

Additionally, they recently expanded and opened up a cafe in downtown Peru at 171 N. Broadway.