EVERYTHING’S COMING UP…FLOWERS
AT BLUE ROOF HYDRO FARM
(No worries. The tomatoes and beef are still there.)
It’s a Sunday afternoon in April. Outside, there’s just the hint of rain in the air, and an occasional flash of lightning on the distant horizon. But, inside the massive 3,000 square foot greenhouse that’s the latest addition at Blue Roof Hydro Farm, it’s an entirely different world. Quiet and peaceful, the only noise is the occasional hum in the background of a fan that turns off and on with pre-programmed frequency. White (and incredibly clean) canvas on the floor discourages the encroachment of weeds and insects. Plastic sheeting on the walls and ceiling slightly mute and cool incoming sunlight. Temperature and humidity are controlled to create ideal growing conditions. The greenhouse has all the elements of a world designed for the benefit of dozens of baskets sprouting with young sprigs of moss roses and countless flats that are showing the first signs of growth.
Yup, no doubt about it. There’s something definitely happening at that friendly family farm with the distinctive blue roof on May Valley Road, and it’s truly the best news that both aspiring and accomplished gardeners in the region have heard in quite some time.
On Friday, April 20, Blue Roof Hydro will have the Grand Opening of their full service Garden Center, also located on the farm east of Eads. Already famous for their hydroponically grown tomatoes (truly the best around anywhere, no exaggeration), owners Katie and Zach Kopasz say the Blue Roof Garden Center will have annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, vegetable starters, herbs and greenery. Unlike the tomatoes, these plants will be grown in soil. Nonetheless, from the look of things in progress, the plants will be grown with the same expertise, care and attention to detail that produce the abundant bounty for which Katie Kopasz is famous.
Quick to dismiss any suggestion that her success is the result of her unique talent, Kopasz discusses her common sense rules for growing healthy, thriving plants and vegetables.
“It all begins with starting plants yourself,” she says. “If they don’t have to be shipped, that’s less stressful for them in the beginning. And if you put plants that aren’t stressed in the right soil with the right conditions, your work is basically done. All you have to do is give them proper care and then just step back and let the plants do what they do.”
In addition to the experience and in-depth knowledge she uses to grow the wonderful things she grows, Kopasz also has history on her side. Since she started growing flowers and herbs, she’s been collecting the seeds every year. “I think the flowers are hardier when they’ve had several summers growing in the same environment and climate that they’re accustomed to.”
Kopasz walks down the long row of baskets filled with moss roses, all of which she’s grown from seeds, and gently touches the sprigs of a single basket as she passes. “That’s how all these were grown,” she says. “I have some petunias I’ve grown from seeds, as well. You won’t get a particular color—there’s no telling what you’ll get because you’ll have all sorts of colors that come up—but they’re all going to be hardy and tough.” She smiles, a little self-consciously. “That’s why I call those my ‘Blue Roof mixes’.”
Despite the simple yet precise language she uses in discussing the flowers, Blue Roof Garden Center plans to offer a broad and varied assortment of plants. “We’ll have all the standards that do well in this climate. Petunias, moss roses, marigolds, vincas, salvia, snapdragons,” she says. “And lavender and daisies…really, just a little bit of everything when it comes to perennials, too. We’ll also try to have a variety of grasses and greenery. And herbs and vegetables for your garden. I’ll also have some of my tomatoes—my Beefsteak tomatoes—that you can plant in your garden, as well. Anything I haven't grown from seed myself I will order in from outside nurseries to ensure we have a wide variety for people to choose from."
As much as some people love buying flats of flowers to plant in their gardens themselves, there is also a large contingency of folks who love the vibrancy and color of container flowers but prefer to buy them already planted.
Kopasz is going to cater to those customers, as well. "I can come to them and plant their containers on site or they can bring their containers to me," she says. I can visit with customers about what type of look they are going for and they can choose their flowers or containers if they need them or I can create a complete design for them. If people have a certain budget, we can work within that as well. Whatever people or business owners want to do and whatever will work for them, all they have to do is ask. After we have visited and have a good idea about what they want to do we will just go from there. I am still finalizing a price list for the container gardening service, but we are going to keep our prices reasonable."
The same thought and consideration that Kopasz applies to growing plants have clearly been applied to her business model, as well. She plans to have longer hours in the summer, making it easier for people to come out to the farm at a time that’s more convenient to them. She’s going to be taking credit and debit cards for people who prefer those types of transactions, as well.
In other words, Blue Roof Garden Center will have the same basic assortment of plants that can be bought at big box stores throughout the region with the same capability to handle any kind of transaction.
However, there will be one absolutely vital difference that can have a big impact on any garden: instead of being cared for by employees who may—or may not—know much about what they’re doing, these plants are grown locally by a local person who is an expert in her profession and is willing to offer friendly, individual, customized service at a level that no big box retailer in the area is willing or able to do.
Katie Kopasz makes it all sound so easy. From the assortment of plants that she grows and her proven method of growing them to the natural way she controls potential problems with unwanted insects through the release of ladybugs to the extraordinary level and array of customer services she offers that are only found, not in a friendly local farm with reasonable prices but, instead, in very expensive “boutique” gardens located in the city and at big city prices, Kopasz seems to have thought the Garden Center all the way through.
But that’s the way it often is with people who learn all they can about what they do while they still continue to genuinely love doing it. And, in an added aspect that is truly unique anymore, this is a real family operation as Katie works side by side with her daughters Amber and Rachel while her husband, Zach, who’s taken the afternoon off from the family farm, is loading flat after flat with rich potting soil that will soon hold any variety one of a variety of plants.
Blue Roof Garden Center promises to be all that a gardener would want in a nursery: healthy beautiful plants that not only look great in the greenhouse but, with proper care, are certain to thrive in a garden or on a porch.
“Buying local” simply doesn’t get better than that. All we have to do now is wait until April 20th for the Garden Center to open. Once that happens, beautiful gardens are sure to follow.