I started working from the ground up (kind of like a plant) in 2004 for my father-in-law, here at Sunbreak nursery. I was overwhelmed by the amount of product that was sent out the door from the small 2 acre nursery. What amazed me the most was, that in the 21st century, all this business was being done with a fax machine crammed in a metal locker inside the greenhouse.

In 1966, the first mainstream fax machine was used, weighing in at a mere 45 pounds. A short three years later, the first moon landing occurred. Technology has come a long way since then. So why, almost four decades after later, was the green industry still feeding paper into a machine to reproduce a copy of it on the other side of a phone line? One reason is that we are creatures of comfort. We do what we know, and we do it well. My father-in-law (now 66) and many others could work that fax machine like a harp when all I wanted to do was beat it with a baseball bat.

Fast-forward to 2011: I am on the road, meeting with customers and calling on some new ones. Those repeat customers are asking for emailed availabilities instead of the fax! HALLELUIAH! The new customers I talked to ONLY wanted email. So what was the change?

I definitely think that there has finally been the paradigm shift that I was expecting when I first started in this business. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an email address, whether it’s to communicate with family members, do business or comment in the opinion section of the newspaper (now online). The need for a faxed piece of paper has gone the way of the dodo bird, for the most part.

However, for some, the fax machine still has merit, preventing it from disappearing completely. Their reasoning makes sense: it is nice, when ordering plant material, to walk through the nursery with sheets of paper to see what is needed or not, without having to print it. I agree, but think of it like in terms of the amount of paper the fax machine system goes through. My standard inventory is 3-5 pages (not including the cover page). I know that when I print 3-5 pages, then the person receiving it uses the same amount of paper. That is for only one customer; multiply that by 30 and that is 90 to 150 pages of paper BEFORE I receive a response. I would use almost 2 reams of paper a month. For those counting, that’s almost 1,000 pages of paper.

Luckily, there are a variety of alternatives to fax machines in the year 2011. I use a service called RingCentral, which converts a fax sent into an email, and there are hundreds of others. Then, I have a digital reproduction of the all the information I need, all the while saving 7 pages of trees. If necessary, I can print it or I can just read it, edit it or send it on to someone else. The World Wide Web is amazing.

We started a website this year with an online inventory and store. My customers can now receive a fax, email, or order online. If they wanted, I would send a carrier pigeon. My goal is to make ordering as trouble-free as possible for my customers. What is easy for them is easy for me. I have decided not to fight the fax but adapt. If you want a fax you will get it, but what I really what people to understand is that there is a better or more efficient way to do business. We are in the green industry so let’s practice what we preach.

On Thursday, February 24, I attended the Flower and Garden show at the Seattle Convention Center. I was a little hesitant to leave due to some snowy conditions, but I had committed to participating in the Flower Growers of Puget Sound display garden. One jackknifed semi truck, along I-5, slowed the trip a bit but it was uneventful, all together.

The fairy tale theme was adorable throughout the show! The Flower Growers of Puget Sound (FGPS) used Rapunzel in their design and it was a huge hit. All the display gardens were very elaborate, as usual. I am always amazed at the detail! I can’t imagine trying to attempt such a feat.

Rapunkel Flower Castle

I really enjoyed strolling through the plant vendors. I, too, vend at plant sales throughout the year and like to see what types of plants people are offering. One plant that is a personal favorite that I saw in several vendors booths was Cyclamen coum (Spring Blooming Cyclamen). The unique flower shape and early blooms makes this a great plant to offer this time of year, and unlike many of the cyclamens, it is hardy for our climate. One of my other favorite was Air Plants from Owens Gardens, very cool plants that don’t grow in soil. They pull nutrients from the air, in order to thrive!

The Flower and Garden Show is a great place for professionals in our industry to show off our passion to the general public and introduce new ideas and products; but it is also a great place for us professionals to get excited about a new year. The show inspires and stimulates the imagination for everyone!

Beautiful Display

On November 4th 2010, the seventh annual Focus on Farming conference was held at the Tulalip Hotel and Convention Center, in beautiful Snohomish County. Focus on Farming aims to bring farmers, growers and agricultural specialists together for a day of discussion and education about the future of agriculture in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.

The theme at this year’s conference was “Get Up and Grow!” and included many breakout sessions that were geared toward improving opportunities farms of all sizes. There were sessions on wine, livestock, business, and conservation and, my favorite, a session relating to greenhouse and nursery production. The special breakout session for Nursery/Greenhouse production offered CPH credits for attending, both this year and last.

I have been fortunate enough to participate on the planning committee for the past four years. I participated as a fundraiser this year and worked with many local organizations and businesses that helped to fund this great event.

Other highlights from the conference included the wonderful keynote speakers, the trade show, where lots of networking and sharing took place, and the wonderful food! Participants were treated to a gourmet lunch made entirely with locally grown and raised ingredients.
If you would like more news about the conference visit, including information about the keynote speakers and all the amazing, local food, go to

Check this blog every month for news about the latest happenings at Sunbreak and for seasonal tips, advice and information on plants, landscaping and gardening.

Sunbreak Nursery is a wholesale grower specializing in groundcovers and ferns, including many native varieties.Sunbreak Nursery is a wholesale grower specializing in groundcovers and ferns, including many native varieties.