Holiday tradition: Nursery ships out thousands of poinsettia

November 2011 Posted in Business, Other

By Don MurthaKen Fessler checks on poinsettias before they are shipped to regional wholesale and retail outlets.

By the time Ken Fessler is finished with them, they are ready for a warm, sunny place.

Fessler is the owner of Fessler Nursery, 12666 Monitor McKee Road, N.E., where he grows annuals and perennials for springtime gardens and poinsettias for the holiday season.

To prepare his poinsettias to bloom, Fessler keeps the traditional holiday plant under a huge black shade for 14 hours a day for four weeks until they are shipped to retail customers.

“They have to have so many hours of darkness or they won’t bloom,” he said.

From his greenhouses he will distribute more than 20,000 poinsettia between October and mid-November.

“We have to have them ready by Nov. 20,” he said

Fessler ships his plants to from Portland to Eugene.

“We can’t ship any farther. They are delicate and will damage easily,” he said.

The plants with red, pink, white or burgundy blooms go to florist shops, churches, box stores like Home Depot or Costco, plant sales and other outlets throughout the Willamette Valley.

Though poinsettia may be delicate, with proper care they will last until Mother’s Day, Fessler said.

“Most important, don’t over water them,” he said, adding poinsettias should be kept in a sunny place in its owner’s home.

Although red and white are the most popular colors, poinsettia also come in purple, pink and variegate.

“There are some that aren’t grown anymore because they just weren’t popular,” Fessler said.

Poinsettias are started in the nursery in July from cuttings, then grown in giant greenhouses.

Fessler started his nursery business with azaleas 30 years ago. Then Jim Bernt, a Mount Angel associate, got Fessler started growing poinsettias.

“Jim grew up picking strawberries in the fields. Now he’s in charge of poinsettia,” Fessler said.

Poinsettias are only a portion of Fessler’s nursery operation.

“We grow 80,000 hanging baskets in the spring,” he said.

Some are sold at the Fessler Nursery retail outlet on Monitor-McGee Road, a popular location for green thumbs in the area, but most ship to other outlets in the Willamette Valley.

If you are interested in purchasing a poinsettia from Fessler Nursery, stop by the main office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. The 4-inch plant sells for $4.60 to the 10-inch for $18.

According to the season the nursery also receives cuttings of fuchsia from Israel and Costa Rica and geranium from Uganda.

“Some times I’ll get 100,000 cuttings in a day,” Fessler said. “I like my own cuttings best though.”

In addition to the greenhouses he keeps for himself, there are 32 greenhouses devoted to house plants that are shipped all over the Western states. Among them are coffee trees, spider plants, palms, ferns, philodendron and “too many to name,” he said. Many of the houseplants starts are shipped in from Hawaii and Florida.

At 73, Fessler insists he is retired. His crew will tell you he can be seen at the nursery almost any day, having fun with the workers and flashing a friendly smile.

“I love working out here,” he said. “It keeps me young.”

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