Vrooms hoping business blooms A new greenhouse puts down roots.

"The blooms have done their part. Now the Vrooms will see whether Bainbridge flower-buyers will support their dream of a family-owned greenhouse operation.Herman and Elizabeth Vroom have 300 hanging floral baskets for sale at their Faylee Greenhouses, which opened last week. And while their product may come naturally, that's not the same thing as easily.There is a lot of labor involved, Elizabeth Vroom said. Every day I start at 5 or 6 in the morning, and it takes me five or six hours to water, deadhead and check the plants for insects.Although the greenhouse will sell some bedding plants - mostly annuals - the principal product will be hanging baskets, arrangements of plants and flowers growing in baskets made out of moss. "

  • Wednesday, May 2, 2001 10:00am
  • News

“The blooms have done their part. Now the Vrooms will see whether Bainbridge flower-buyers will support their dream of a family-owned greenhouse operation.Herman and Elizabeth Vroom have 300 hanging floral baskets for sale at their Faylee Greenhouses, which opened last week. And while their product may come naturally, that’s not the same thing as easily.There is a lot of labor involved, Elizabeth Vroom said. Every day I start at 5 or 6 in the morning, and it takes me five or six hours to water, deadhead and check the plants for insects.Although the greenhouse will sell some bedding plants – mostly annuals – the principal product will be hanging baskets, arrangements of plants and flowers growing in baskets made out of moss. They will sell for $35 to $79, except for the five-feet across baskets intended for hanging on a downtown light pole, which go for $149.While home gardeners often plant their own arrangements in their own baskets, it’s hard for them to duplicate the look of the Vrooms’ baskets without a greenhouse.By starting the baskets when the plants are very small, they grow out together into a dense display, Elizabeth said. I have 29 plants on a small basket. You couldn’t get nearly that many if you were starting now.The couple met in Zambia, while both were teaching school. They moved back to Herman’s native Holland, where they learned the floral-basket business from Dutch master Bert Verhoog. Two years ago, they decided to come back to the United States and try the hanging-basket business for themselves.I like the amount of space, Herman said. We have two acres here, and you can’t get that in Holland.They spent a year scoping out the Northwest, where Elizabeth, who was raised in Oregon, has family. And while they liked Seattle for the scenery and because there are few floral-basket growers, they weren’t certain they could find a suitable home here.We had just about given up on the Seattle area when somebody suggested we look at Bainbridge Island, Herman said. Then we spent two days looking at houses, and couldn’t find what we wanted.As we were on our way back to the ferry, I picked up a copy of the Review and saw an ad with a house for sale by owner that looked perfect. We went back into the real estate office and asked our agent about it.So last August, they bought the two-plus sunny acres on the dirt extension of Sportsman Club west of Finch Road, part of an old strawberry farm. It came with unexpected extras.We inherited donkeys, Elizabeth said. They’re really lovely animals, but we couldn’t afford the time to train them, so we had to find other homes for them.The 4,200-square-foot greenhouse came from eastern Oregon via an ad in an agricultural publication. Herman spent a week in November disassembling it, then trucked it to Bainbridge.The reassembly – think of it as the mother of all erector-set projects – was a month-long barn-raising with friends and neighbors coming to help, Herman said.The timing was perfect. The greenhouse was ready when the snowstorm came, and the plants survived.The growing has been more work than the couple ever imagined. Every day without a break, said Elizabeth. More expense, too, as the rising costs of fuel hit both the Vrooms and their suppliers.The payoff, they hope, will come during their short harvest time between now and the middle of June. During that short sale season, the Faylee Greenhouse at 7388 Sportsman Club will be open Fridays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.On Saturdays, the Vrooms pack daughters Tessa Fay, age 1, and Annika Lee, age 3, and head for their stall at the Farmers Market. There, they hand out brochures for the greenhouse, sell their organically grown plants such as tomatoes and maybe sell a few baskets.As time goes on, the Vrooms hope to both expand and diversify. Winter baskets are one possibility; another is fresh fruit from the orchard planted behind their bright yellow house. A third is to put their front fields to good use.In our dreams this is a cutting field for flowers, Elizabeth said.For now, though, they will be content to realize even a modest income after months of nothing but outgo.It is nice to go to the bank after a Farmer’s Market day and actually make a deposit of like $100, and say that’s income, Herman said. “

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