With 25 years of business under their belts, Kim and LaDonna Jackson know a thing or two about managing greenhouses.
Located just seven miles off of Exit 28 on I-64, Kim's Greenhouse, owned and operated by the Milton-based couple, has flourished over the last few decades selling baskets of assorted annuals and perennials, seasonal crops and shrubbery.
"We had one greenhouse that was 20 by 40 [feet]," Kim Jackson said. "We started contracting bell peppers since we could grow our own that were better than the pepper company could furnish. We just grew from that."
Between sowing new seeds and selling established plants throughout the year, there are few breaks in the business. The hours are long, and the weather can be unpredictable. But for the Jacksons, it's provided a special opportunity to work together as a family. Their children, Orin and Cheyenne, have been involved in the business since they were young.
"I'm here most of the time in the busy season from 9 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. March through June," Jackson said. "I did this [business] and worked [full-time] for about 12 years, and I decided to take the plunge and do this full-time. You never get bored."
For most plants, the preparations start in early December when the cuttings are shipped to the greenhouses. Around Feb. 1, the planting begins.
"The weather impacts what you do," Jackson said. "If you get a lot of rain around Mother's Day and it continues into the season, you could be in bad trouble. You're playing Russian Roulette with the weather, and you don't know what it's going to be like. You have to have these plants ready because when people want them, they expect them to be there whether they're ready or not."
When the season inevitably dies down from November through early January, the Jacksons take time to clean, repair the greenhouses and evaluate the structures.
"In the winter, I run three houses," Jackson said. "I'm down here every night at 11 p.m. or midnight to make sure the furnaces are running. You can't just take off at 6 o'clock - you have to check the houses and make sure the doors aren't open and that the heat is running."
Over the years, Jackson's structured routine has caught six failing furnaces before any serious damage was done. Luckily, he has a nearby furnace mechanic who is willing to make house calls at all hours of the night.
"Peck on wood, I've never lost a house to the cold," he said.
Certainly the job is demanding, but creating lifelong relationships with new and existing customers makes it all worth the hustle. When established customers pass away or are no longer able to travel to the greenhouse, Jackson said, they are dearly missed.
"A lot of people that I associate with, I wouldn't know if it wasn't for this business," Jackson said. "That's the thing we have in common: the flowers."
As the summer season progresses, the Jacksons are focused on planting mums and seasonal produce for the fall. In the back greenhouse, next year's ferns are growing quickly.
"You see people, and you meet new people, and you're able to sell them flowers and landscaping stuff that hopefully makes them happy," Jackson said. "They seem to like coming out here and they enjoy the scenery."
Kim's Greenhouse is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the summer.