A PASSION FOR PLANTS
Joe Ward is Southwood’s general manager. Has been since 2006. Now you might think that when a guy who spends five or six days a week surrounded by plants gets home every evening, the last thing he wants to do is surround himself with more plants. But in Joe’s case, you’d be wrong. We visited Joe at his new greenhouse, located on a wooded acreage where he and his wife, Sue, recently built a new home.
Southwood: Your new greenhouse is beautiful. How big is it?
Joe Ward: It’s 48-feet long, 24-feet wide, and 18-feet high. It has 6-inch thick concrete walls that are 4-feet tall and provide great insulation.
SW: This isn’t your first greenhouse, right?
JW: I’ve had hobby greenhouses in the past, but I’ve always outgrown them quickly. Having a greenhouse this large gives me the opportunity to enjoy specimen plants year round without having to move them in and out seasonally, especially large cycads, Bougainvilleas, and palms.
SW: What’s the glazing material?
JW: I went with 8mm, twin-wall polycarbonate panels.
SW: How do you heat and cool it?
JW: There are two propane wall heaters. I try not to let the temp drop below 45 degrees in the winter. The cooling is passive airflow, with several circulating fans throughout. I put one large exhaust fan on the west gable with an intake vent on the east gable. All of the other vents are solar controlled. When the temp reaches 70 degrees the vents begin to gradually open until they max out at 80 degrees.
SW: Is there an automatic irrigation system or do you water by hand?
JW: All watering is done by hand. I fill multiple storage tanks with fresh rain water from the roof, and from there water is pumped to the sinks and faucets.
SW: It’s obviously a production greenhouse, but you included casual seating and dining areas. What prompted you to do that?
JW: I consider this to be more of a conservatory than a production-style greenhouse. Since I do spend a lot of time there I wanted it to be comfortable. I added the seating and dining areas for entertaining friends and family. I also like to just sit and enjoy a good book among the plants.
SW: You have a great mix of plants, from tropicals to succulents and cycads. Do you have a favorite plant group?
JW: I truly am interested in all plant groups. If I had to pick a group it would be the Cycads since they are a prehistoric group with a variety of leaf shapes, colors, and textures. They tend to be slow growing, hard to find, and quite expensive. My next group would have to be the “weirder the better,” as in rare succulents, especially anything with a caudex or bulbous trunk. I love to experiment with all kinds of plants.
My degree is in ornamental horticulture with a minor in greenhouse management. During my education I excelled at plant identification and from there was exposed to many, many genera and species of plants. Since I was a young boy I have always been fascinated by plants and how they grow and propagate.
SW: How many hours a week do you spend in the greenhouse?
JW: I currently spend approximately 8 hours a week in the greenhouse, and I hope to spend more time there in the future. Right now, however, the landscape is consuming a lot of my time with multiple gardens and patios that I am putting in myself. This is my sanctuary,one that gives me peace of mind, provides an escape from life’s distractions, and keeps me healthy.
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