I found it when I walked into one of Sprague’s 15 greenhouses, happily inhaled the smell of dirt and saw colorful blooming begonias and seedlings that soon will be in my garden.
Melissa Higgins, Sprague’s retail manager, said that this week — the business’s opening week — brings in a lot of people like me.
“They just want to smell dirt and see color. It’s good for the soul,” Higgins said.
Sprague’s has been pleasing our senses and beautifying our gardens since 1947, serving residential and commercial customers in Greater Bangor. The business was started by Harvey and Mildred Sprague and now is operated by their sons Harvey Jr. and Danny, along with up to 30 employees during peak season.
The business has evolved into a complete nursery and garden center. It offers plants, trees and shrubs, containers and garden accents, supplies and gifts.
Sprague’s begins preparations for the 2105 season in its acre of greenhouses in late February.
“We’ll handle over 100,000 plants this season including about 3,700 hanging baskets and 5,700 flower pots,” said Tim Davis, who is the head grower.
The plants are sown in rotation to keep inventory fresh for customers throughout the growing season.
“Timing is everything but after 30 or 40 years of doing this we’ve sort of got it down,” said Dan Sprague.
Weather is a factor in the success of plants in the greenhouse.
“It’s been a cold winter — but it’s also been a sunny one and sunshine keeps plants happy in our greenhouses,” said Sprague.
Keeping the greenhouses “happy” is a necessary part of this business.
“It’s a 24-hour job to keep the greenhouses going. It requires a lot of manpower and thousands of gallons of oil a year to maintain them,” said Sprague.
As far as knowing what to plant in the greenhouses, “Petunias, million bells and geraniums continue to be our most popular annuals,” according to Davis. But every year the staff experiments with new varieties of annuals, perennials and vegetables.
“We grow most of our annuals and perennials right here in our own greenhouses,” Higgins said.
Many things stay the same from season to season at Sprague’s. But some things are changing. Higgins pointed out that the customers have changed over the last several years.
“Our customer demographic used to be primarily middle-aged gardeners. Now we are seeing more twenty- to thirty somethings coming in who want to grow their own veggies, crops and fruit trees.
“There is a big movement, especially among younger people, to grow their own food,” she added.
If you’re chomping at the bit to get your hands in the dirt and plant your gardens, Higgins advised it’s best to wait until early May to plant cool season plants, including pansies and petunias. Warmer varieties should wait until Memorial Day.
In the meantime, Easter and Mother’s Day are busy times for container plants and hanging baskets.
Right now, the business is focused on preparing to take care of customers when planting season arrives with a large selection of beautiful and healthy plants and well-trained and knowledgeable employees.
“It’s been a long winter,” Higgins remarked. “We’re excited to be gearing up to help our customers welcome spring and summer to their gardens — and get their hands in the dirt — finally!”