Editor's note: We're following the Sedgwick County master gardeners on a tour of six homegrown garden centers in Wichita this spring. This week we visit Dutch's Greenhouse.
"I need a road map in here," one of the master gardeners said to no one in particular as our eyes drank in row after green, flowering row at Dutch's Greenhouse this week.
I could sympathize with her feeling of being gloriously overwhelmed. But I share the habits of master gardener Dea Deutsch, who protested to herself:
"I need to get a plan, instead of just buying everything."
Plan, shmlan. A plan can come in handy in making sure you cover certain bases in your garden, that's true, but when you're faced with a spring full of new plants, you have to allow yourself to be swept up in a wave of surprises. And there's no road map for that.
Dutch's is the kind of place where, for example, you stumble into discussions on the merits of Breathless vs. Diamond Frost euphorbia with the greenhouse's container guru, Ron Marcum. The staff knows the intimate details of the plants because they've raised them from babies.
"We're one of the last few growing greenhouses," Jerry DeRee, who owns Dutch's with his brother Frank, told the master gardeners. "Ninety-five percent of what you see here we grow."
Dutch was the nickname of the DeRees' father, Gerard, who came to the United States from the Netherlands, as did his wife, Corry. The elder DeRees started the business at 5043 S. Seneca in 1957 with a 10-foot-by-10-foot counter that sold Dutch bulbs. As a next step, Gerard DeRee built a small greenhouse himself out of wood and glass and started selling petunias and geraniums and a few bedding plants. "It kind of blossomed from there," Jerry DeRee said.
About 13 years ago, 20 acres were added to the parents' original two, and 17 growing houses have been built there.
Fans of annuals love Dutch's for its plethora of 4-inch pots, perfect for building into gorgeous planter combinations and garden beds. The greenhouse is also a hot spot for roses. Dutch's carries 120 varieties, and for those of you who like a road map, they're arranged in this order as you come out the back door of the store: miniatures, shrubs including the Knock Outs, floribundas, grandifloras, and then the hybrid teas.
Dutch's starts its roses by potting up bare-rooted canes the first of February and then bringing them out of dormancy slowly in the spring so that there is no shock to their system. Many of the roses are out now, and the peak of selection will be next weekend.
"Look at that orange. Isn't that fabulous?" master gardener Nancy Garnett exclaimed when she caught a glimpse of a copper-toned Pumpkin Patch floribunda.
Then Lisa Folds saw the bright tangerine orange of Gingersnap.
"It just glows," she swooned.
"Oh, it smells wonderful," another master gardener sighed about Scentimental.
Also in this area of Dutch's are shrubs for shade, found along — naturally — a shaded fence, while shrubs for sun run along a more-open chain-link fence. One-gallon perennials also can be found here.
The other door out of the store leads to the greenhouses — first to what the DeRees call "The Bubble," which holds larger tropicals, including hibiscus trees, and then into the largest greenhouse, which has perennials in 4 1/2-inch pots, and then vegetable plants and the annuals. Detailed signs give the attributes of each plant, along with an easy-to-spot "NEW!" sign on each one that's new to Dutch's each year.
Causing a stir this trip were Pretty Much Picasso petunias — a deep orchid pink petunia edged in lime green — and the aforementioned Breathless euphorbia, a more compact version of the white-sparks-flying Diamond Frost.
One lucky master gardener, Susan Havener, had her cart of flowers praised by Ron Marcum. She had chosen the combination of Can-Can Orange calibrachoa and purple torenia.
"I'm a purple and orange person," Marcum said. "Or blue."
Susan had added in some Breathless euphorbia for a dash of white.
Other hot annuals this spring are the new sun coleuses and new Wave petunias, especially Burgundy Star. The master gardeners rode the wave.
Next week: We're off to Brady Nursery.