Yes, we are in the point of sharpest cold and least life: mid-winter in Vermont. But we are still bringing living things into being. We have started soaking and pre-treating anemones and ranunculus corms.
In October, I ordered the corms. After they arrived, I kept them in the coolest and driest part of my basement so they maintained the shrunken state of their dormant phase. About a month a ago, I took them out and soaked them for 18 hours and they doubled in size.
Next I placed them in 52 cell plug trays with a light soil mix. I do this in the kitchen of my house, which is messy but nothing a broom and vacuum can’t handle. Next I begin the complicated pre -sprouting phase. All the trays go on a rack in the design studio which is kept at specific temperatures to help them grow. I have to trick them with an extended cold phase and then warm them to get the growing started. They are sprouting up now!
This year I am starting a month earlier then last year, and putting them in the ground of the cold frame in end of February or beginning of March. As a more mature plant, they will love cool temps and thrive in only low light. They grow well in cold frames in coastal areas of Washington State in winter, which have cool but consistent weather. Vermont experiences such fluctuating climate extremes that the grower must introduce a lot of control to different variables. In southern California they are grown outside, in the ground, planted in fall, like tulips.
Last year my crops were pretty close to a complete failure. I wound up with very few flowers. They budded late, in too much heat. The plant turned yellow and died. Farming is sometimes trial and error, so this year I am working on doing it differently. I have planted more anemones then ranunculus. This year, I’ve altered the experiment by starting earlier in the winter, and planting in ground as opposed to in crates. This should keep plants cooler to begin with and throughout March, April and May the plants will stay cool and shaded as temperatures climb.One of our few Anemone Blooms from 2012
Experimenting for best crop output is a lot of work, but honestly I love the challenge and I welcome the activity during the slow months of winter. As Missy Barrette of Old Friends Farm wrote in the Cut Flower Quarterly “Plan on winter not coming, and plan on spring happening really early.” This is some of the best and most hopeful advice a grower can hear.