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Business in Bloom 

If you're looking for a wide variety of tropical plants or landscaping materials, when you cross into the Ninth Ward on St. Claude Avenue, you are most certainly on the right side of the tracks. That's because just over the Press Street train tracks you'll find Harold's Indoor Outdoor Plants (1135 Press St., 947-7554).

Owner Harold Applewhite's nursery has grown steadily in the 18 years since the Mississippi native opened on St. Claude after a two-year joint venture in the French Quarter.

"When I came to New Orleans, I came with the idea that I was going to semi-retire," Applewhite says. "But that turned out to be a foolish notion, because now I work harder than I ever have before."

Applewhite, however, isn't complaining about his increased workload, which has required him to hire additional staff. He estimates his customer base has tripled since Hurricane Katrina. He credits the upswing in business to the landscaping needs of residents in storm-ravaged New Orleans -- and the fact that he has almost everything people need for gardening.

Besides a solid cross-section of landscaping materials, Applewhite regularly keeps hundreds of plant varieties on hand as well as a number of specialties, such as orchids and other tropicals not typically found in area nurseries, he says. Harold's also carries a full range of garden accessories, including watering instruments, fertilizers, moisture- testing kits, a selection of decorative pots, fountains, water balls, arches and more.

Over time, Harold's has grown to occupy an entire city block. "We're constantly expanding these days. With the volume of business we're doing, we have to."

Doing Business with the Feds

A group of federal agencies is hosting a Disaster Outreach Conference for small and local businesses from 8:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, July 18, at Gallier Hall (545 St. Charles Ave.). The conference is hosted by the U.S. General Services Administration, FEMA, Small Business Administration and the Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The conference is free. To register, call 589-6730. The meeting will teach locals how to conduct business with federal agencies during and after a disaster. Other Disaster Outreach Conferences will be held this summer in Lake Charles, and locations in Texas.

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