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Lilies Ready by Greenhouse Open House March 28 and 29

March 12, 2008

The annual UNH Greenhouse Open House is March 28 and 29, 2008. Photo: Cheryl Smith.

Chris Robarge and horticultural technology students at the Thompson School of Applied Science have been planning since December to force spring flowering bulbs, herbs, cyclamen, and Easter lilies into bloom for the earliest Easter in nearly 35 years.

Even though Easter is early, Robarge is right on time.

“I think my lilies will be a little early this year, but that’s fine. I’d rather have them early than late,” he says. An early bloom might have them ready just in time for Easter, a week before the annual UNH Greenhouse Open House March 28 and 29 (9 am to 4 pm).

Robarge manages the Thompson School horticultural facility, where students take care of the plants and plan the themed rooms of the conservatory and greenhouse for the popular open house, which coincides with the Seacoast Home & Garden Show at the nearby Whittemore Center.

In addition to spring bulbs and flowering plants for sale, the Greenhouse Open House will offer the opportunity to get a head start on vegetable gardens. Each year students raise more than 250 miniature cherry tomato plants to sell at the open house.

In preparation for the open house, Robarge’s students bought tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, and crocus bulbs last fall, keeping them stored in a controlled environment for the spring show. They also have an assortment of trees, shrubs and perennials which they have wintered over under microfoam for good keeping.

“Some cold springs, we’ve had to force the winter stock open from hibernation,” Robarge says.

Students also began planning and designing themes for their landscape displays in the fall. In the spring they implement the design, including construction and plant forcing. This has transformed the areas in past years into tropical oases, villages with thatched-roofed buildings, medieval villages with rock walls, and an Oriental garden with a pond and a foot bridge. The themed areas this year include an enchanted forest and a summer boardwalk.

Robarge anticipates up to 3,000 people walking through the 6,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

“It’s something we can do to give back to the community. The open house is different enough each year that you can come and learn something new every time,” Robarge says. There will be lectures and discussion panels as well as practical advice for gardening. The event is free.

This is the 35th year the Thompson School has hosted a Greenhouse Open House in conjunction with the plant biology department, Cooperative Extension, and the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. The greenhouse is located behind Putnam Hall on the west edge of campus. Shuttle buses will run between the greenhouses and the Whittemore Center. For more information, go to www.thompsonschool.unh.edu or call 2-3200.

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