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Seasonal flora to fawn over

By Christopher J. Hughes

May 24, 2013

FORTY FORT — Business was in full bloom this week for area garden centers and landscapers, and one local wholesale florist said the season is one of the strongest he’s ever seen.

Customers were buzzing outside Tom Tobin Jr. Wholesale Florist, 905 Wyoming Ave., Forty Fort, on Thursday, just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

“They’re buying a lot of the big pots for their houses, the big 12-inch geraniums and combination pots, and lots of hanging baskets,” Tobin, of Franklin Township, said. “Now that it’s only a few days from Memorial Day, they’re buying the flats of annuals and geraniums for the graves.”

Tobin said his business, which is 90 percent wholesale, also works with a number of floral shops that create cut flower baskets and arrangements for graves, too.

“This area here — the coal country — to my knowledge is the only area in the country that that is done,” he said. “It’s unique to the area, I’m told, because of the heavy nationalities of Italians and Polish.”

The Memorial Day weekend is an unofficial marker for many to complete their planting at home and at area cemeteries.

James Cerreta, owner of Plant Mechanix in Swoyersville, was busy Thursday picking up some annuals for clients of his landscaping business to complete work in cemeteries.

“This is the crush weekend,” Cerreta said. “Pretty much everybody wants to be planted. In some of the further north locations, we try to hold off until after Memorial Day.”

Alice Lepore, of Exeter, was filling the back of her vehicle with some geraniums, hanging baskets and a combination pot just after noon on Thursday. She estimated it was her 12th trip to Tobin’s already this year, but this week’s finds were all for her. She picked up some cemetery logs on a previous trip to Tobin’s.

“I love this place,” she said. “I wait for the summer and my flowers.”

Along with her flowers, she’s also visited Tobin’s to prep her vegetable garden, which includes tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, radishes and more this season.

Sales of the popular impatiens flower are down this year after reports of a fungus-like organism that’s killing the plant. Tobin said savvy planters are aware of the issue and avoid the plant, dropping sales of that flower by about 80 percent.

Outside of impatiens, “everything is selling hard” this year, Tobin said. “They’re buying tons of vegetables. It’s the busiest season that we’ve ever had.” The wholesale florist has been on Wyoming Avenue for 35 of its 44 years in business.

Tobin credits his continued success to his dedicated employees.

“They’re very loyal. They pound and pound and pound seven days a week from January 20 to July 1,” he said.

A cold snap that occurred near Mother’s Day also affected some people’s planting schedules, which may be helping business.

“I believe everyone is a few days behind because of that,” Tobin said. “They seem to be catching up for those two or three days that we had that really bad weather.”



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