At Berjon’s, the geranium is king
At Berjon’s Greenhouse, just off of Road 9, geraniums abound and are ready to add color to your garden or flower beds this spring.
More than 20 years ago, Berjon’s Greenhouse started growing bedded geraniums in a 2,000-square-foot greenhouse. Owner John Biersner studied agronomy at Washington State University and worked on dry land wheat farms in the Walla Walla area. He enjoyed farming, but realized it was an expensive occupation. He decided that it would be more economical to open a greenhouse.
Today, Berjon’s boasts some 20,000 square feet of greenhouse space, where the business grows a variety of plants. Still, the geranium may just be Berjon’s signature plant.
“Geraniums were the first crop we ever grew,” said Biersner, who created the business name by combining both his first and last name. “We concentrated on the geranium. Back then it was 100 percent of our crop for the first couple of years.”
Although the geranium has lost some of its popularity over the years because of competition from super petunias and other foliage that out performs, the geranium still holds on as a standard in most home gardens.
Berjon’s geraniums have gained a reputation as the “Quincy geranium” because they are known for their hardiness and high quality.
“It’s a better quality plant,” Biersner said of his geraniums. “It’s the way we grow it. It will grow from frost to frost.”
Geraniums are an annual that will survive in temperatures down into the low thirties. Their growing season is from mid-April to the last week in October. A geranium planted in April will even out-grow a plant in May. In fact, a plant purchased in May will never catch up with the long-lasting geranium, Biersner said.
At Berjon’s, hundreds of geraniums were growing in the greenhouse last month. Three crops of geraniums are started at different times so they won’t be too big at the end of the season. The staggering of the crops ensures Berjon’s will always have some plants at a good saleable size during the season, said Biersner, who is in his 21st growing season.
Geraniums do well in the basin’s climate, although there are some common mistakes people can make when growing the plant. One such mistake is not giving the geranium enough water or fertilizer. It is also important to “dead-head” geraniums by constantly removing all of the old blossoms and growth.
If too much debris falls to the bottom of the plant, it can result in too much moisture, which in turn can spark disease in a plant. Fortunately, it is normally dry in the Quincy Valley, so those issues aren’t so common here. In fact, geraniums do quite well in the heat.
When deciding which geranium to take home, keep in mind that there are about seven colors to choose from: red, white, pink, salmon, violet, lavender and orange. Every breeder has three different series of geraniums, and there are up to six colors to choose from in each, Biersner said. Some popular varieties are the Rocky Mountain and the Americana.
“We stick with the basics and don’t do anything fancy,” Biersner said. “My personal favorite is the Patriot Series Patriot Watermelon.”
— By Tammara Green, QVPR contributor