On the Clock: Greenhouse owner starts early, spends day advising gardeners

The unofficial start to summer was just hours away. People walked through the open air corridors of

It was like New Year’s Eve for Mark Schultz.

The unofficial start to summer was just hours away. People in shorts and sandals walked through the open air corridors of the Schultz Greenhouse on Hetcheltown Road in Glenville, shopping for petunias, marigolds, peppers, tomatoes and hundreds of other candidates for backyard gardens.

“It’s the busiest time of the year for us,” said greenhouse manager Schultz, 40, as he moved $24.50 bundles of red, purple and white flowers into a display stand. “This is when everybody gets around to planting. Most everybody has a three-day weekend. People have put their lawns in, finished trimming the hedges. When they’re all done, they move to their annuals and perennials.”

Founded in ’40s

Schultz’s father, Raymond Schultz Sr., founded the business as the Schultz Farm in Colonie during the 1940s. Albany County acquired the farm through eminent domain during the mid-1960s as part of the expansion of Albany County Airport. The Schultz family moved to Glenville in 1968, selling fresh produce and pansies from a farm stand. In 1986, fresh vegetables were eliminated from the company plan and plants became the marquee merchandise.

Raymond Schultz Sr. passed away in 2006; his wife, Shelia Schultz, remains involved with the business. Mark’s brothers Raymond Jr. and Don — and the guys’ cousin Eric Hotopp — are also on the job.

Mark Schultz, a 1988 graduate of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, dresses in the company outfit — a light, pea-green golf shirt, light-colored shorts and sandals.

“This year, the shorts didn’t come out until the second week in May,” he said, a nod to the cool spring weather. “Usually they’re on in the first week in April. I was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans in the greenhouse last week, which is unheard of.”

Early afternoon means replacing and refreshing stock, and answering questions from customers. He’s on the job at 5:30 a.m. during the spring and summer, serving drinks to fiery red celosia, dragon wing begonias, multicolored zinnias and thousands of other thirsty subjects. “It takes me and Eric about five hours apiece to water, we have so much out back,” Schultz said. “There’s no such thing as turning on a sprinkler in a greenhouse.”

At 1:15 p.m., Schultz stood in one of those greenhouses for corn and sunflower plants that were moving to sales tables. It was about 120 degrees, humid — one reason he works up a sweat every day in his gardens.

Customer questions

Returning to the commercial section, he met Peggy Gilday of Saratoga Springs and answered color questions about small-flowered phlox plants. “I think I’ll take two pink ones and two purple ones,” Gilday said. “I’ll mix them.”

Gilday shopped for other living color, and walked down an aisle filled with giant balls of purple, plum and pink — flower baskets — hanging from the ceiling. “You know, I think I’m going to get a couple marigolds,” she said, impressed by brilliant yellow on long green stems.

A few minutes later, Gilday had a small wagon full of plants. Schultz rolled it to the front of the store and a waiting cashier. “They’ll take care of you in here,” he said, getting a friendly “thank you” for his work. Then, it was back to the plants customers were considering.

“The most important thing we do is fix the displays all weekend,” he said, filling empty spaces with new plants. “We try to keep things looking fresh.”

In the vegetable house, Mary Maciag of Clifton Park was looking for the San Marzano, an Italian plum tomato.

“I’ve got some on my truck,” Schultz said. “I’ll bring you some in.”

Maciag is happy for the help. “I say, if you don’t ask, you don’t find out where they are,” she said.

People have been asking when it’s safe to put plants in the ground. And they want to know about correct locations for their purchases. “No matter how good a gardener you are, if you put a shade plant in the sun or a sun plant in the shade, it’s not going to grow,” Schultz said.

He is happy to show off some of the greenhouse’s more peculiar residents. Small “firecracker” flowers are buds that look like tiny red sticks in foliage. The “mimosa pudica” is the “sensitivity” plant; even a slight touch will force its small, fragile leaves to quickly close inward.

Storm watch

At 1:45, with stock checked and customers buzzing around the flowers, Schultz checked his gasoline-powered generator on the side of the store. Thunderstorms had been forecast, and a violent storm could knock out power — which could knock out sales because many people use credit cards for their transactions. The red machine quickly started, so thunder and lightning were no longer concerns. “Lot easier than I thought,” Schultz said.

Back inside, customers have concerns. They want to know about sweet potato vines — “Put them in the sun and they’ll cascade right out,” Schultz said. They want to know if Celebrity or Jet Star tomatoes are better for patios or decks — “Jet Stars,” Schultz said.

By 2 p.m., more people seem to be coming into the store. One woman held a list in her left hand, and looked at flowers budding from shades of green.

“Do you have a question, ma’am?” Schultz asked.

“No,” the woman responded.

“Oh,” smiled Schultz, a little surprised. “People with lists usually do.”

“On the Clock” profiles people at work in the Capital Region by spending one hour with them on the job. Nominate a friend or co-worker by contacting Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected].

Categories: Life and Arts

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