December 22, 2008

Fabulous Foliage

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., becomes the fashion runway for tropical foliage plants each January, when new varieties and interiorscaping concepts make their debut at the Tropical Plant Industry Expo (TPIE). The theme of this year’s event is “Tag It Tropical,” Jan. 15-17 at the Broward County Convention Center. Check out the following varieties and many more at the show. For more information about the show, visit www.tpie.org. Corn. Bak B.V. Dutch breeder Corn. Bak B.V. has introduced three new guzmania varieties that fit together as a series. Plants are fast-growing and suitable for 4-inch pots. ‘Ritmo’ (top) has an orange star-shaped inflorescence and is a welcome addition to the current assortment. ‘Tinto’ (middle) has a bordeaux red star-shaped inflorescence, bringing a new color to the collection. ‘Glossita’ (bottom) has a salmon-colored, star-shaped inflorescence. Florica Farms Florida grower Florica Farms has introduced two new dracaenas. ‘Art’ is similar to the old standby, […]

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December 22, 2008

Opportunity In China

Over the past 30 years since the opening of markets in China, the flower industry has continued to develop. In recent years, the development has escalated to a point where almost every province is aggressively developing its flower industry niche. China’s 1.33 billion people want a better life, and some regions are closer to that dream than other areas. Each area wants to be recognized as the largest in the country. Some areas like Yunnan province are best known for their cut flowers, and Guangdong province is best known for its tropical foliage. Each geographical area seems to have its strong points. The rapid development of China’s economy is in the Yangtze River Delta consisting of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang areas. The population was 16,740,000, 74,380,000 and 46,770,000 in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, respectively, for a total of 137.8 million people in the region as reported in 2006. The population […]

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December 22, 2008

Different Is Not Always Better

The U.S. economy has been weathering recession-like conditions for a while now, including job losses, home foreclosures, declining consumer confidence, lower business spending and inflationary pressures on some of our key production inputs. Due to the cumulative impacts of these stressful economic conditions, we find several of our friends and colleagues are no longer working in the industry. Of those remaining, several I have interacted with have indicated their business activity is way down, but others say they have either been “holding their own” or “doing OK.” There has, however, been another (yet smaller) subset of growers that has indicated its “sales are up” or business has been “expanding” this year. Surviving & Thriving So naturally, this has prompted me to ponder how this can be. What is it that separates the folks who are just doing “OK” from those who are doing well? As usual, there is no easy […]

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December 19, 2008

How Many Poinsettias Can You Fit In A Car?

While the poinsettia season has been disappointingly soft for growers and retailers, consumers are taking advantage of bargains. Gary Mangum of Bell Nursery shared a picture his representative Kevin Spear took in the parking lot of a BJ’s Wholesale Club in Philadelphia. The customer bought 30 10-inch poinsettias to give as gifts. The year before, he came too late and all the 10-inch were gone. Do you have any pictures to share of your holiday crops or a recap of the season? Send them to Editor Delilah Onofrey at donofrey@meistermedia.com and we’ll present them in a future edition of Benchrunner.

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December 19, 2008

Mercer Botanicals Now VeriFlora Certified

Mercer Botanicals, a tropicals grower featured on our January 2008 cover, is among the latest greenhouse growers to earn sustainability certification through VeriFlora. Last January, we wrote how Mercer Botanicals adopted the Southern Nursery Association’s Best Management Practices as a guide for environmentally sound growing. “We have committed to minimizing nitrate runoff by using both controlled release and liquid feed fertilizer in order to maintain an ideal EC and pH in our crops,” Co-owner Wayne Mercer said at the time. “Our feed schedule uses minimal pounds per yard of slow-release feed in 100 percent peat mix with supplemental liquid feeds only as required. We irrigate through low-volume heads with 85 percent plus uniformity.” Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) recognized Mercer Botanicals for those practices, among others. Five acres of the 50-acre nursery, for example, contain ponds that capture 100 percent of rainwater from Florida’s summer storms, and it operates by an […]

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December 18, 2008

Rocky Mountain Poinsettia Report

Two weeks ago, marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery shared his assessment of retail poinsettias at North Florida box stores. This week, he offers his thoughts on poinsettias at independent garden centers and box stores in Denver, Colo. Introduction With less than 12 shopping days left, the roads were clogged and some retailers were extremely busy on Saturday, Dec. 13. Poinsettia inventories were fairly large, and most retailers were offering discounted prices ranging from 20 to 25 percent. At the national retailers, inventories were 90 percent red whereas independents like Paulino’s Garden Center, Echter’s, and Tagawa Garden Center offered an array of colors, novelties and painted poinsettias. Paulino’s Garden Center: One of the best marketers of poinsettias anywhere, featuring high-quality products that are very well merchandised on tables with appropriate spacing. They have really used the painted concept to differentiate themselves with unique artistic offerings. Echter’s Garden Center: A high-end retailer offering […]

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December 18, 2008

The Classic City Awards: Perennials

The Classic City Awards are presented in November after months of evaluation in The Gardens at the University of Georgia. Click here for the lowdown on the top 10 perennials from 2008 for the 2009 market. Miscanthus ‘Gold Bar’ ‘Gold Bar’ has exceptional posture, providing a highly useful structure as a border plant. The half inch creamy yellow bars that accent each bright green blade are striking and lure the viewer as they approach the plant. In this, its second year in the garden, plants were two and a half feet tall at the peak of summer. Tricyrtis ‘Kohaku’ What an exquisite beauty! The lavender petals gradually fade into a blue center. From the center of the bloom, a light yellow pistil and stamens arise, speckled with burgundy. Gaura ‘Snow Fountain’  Cascading petals of white resemble falling snow frozen in time without the bite of cold weather. The brightness of […]

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December 18, 2008

Too Much White Christmas

Louisiana growers have come to expect the multiple hurricanes that plow through their region each year to cause structural damage to their greenhouses. But snow? Two to eight inches of it fell in a single day across the state a couple of weeks ago, and the snow’s weight caused many greenhouses to collapse. Fifteen of 18 greenhouses at Poole Brothers Nursery’s main location were damaged recently by unexpected Louisiana snowfall. Thirty-five of the 70 greenhouses at Poole Brothers Nursery in the central Louisiana collapsed under the weight of the snow. Owner Debbie Head says six inches fell at the nursery’s main location in Lecompte, where three of 18 houses were left standing. Poole Brothers has five locations in all, and some of its affected structures were new. Astoundingly, Head says the snow-caused damages are worse than the wind and heavy rain damages her nursery’s structures sustained from hurricanes Gustav and […]

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December 18, 2008

A Last-Minute Holiday Gift Option

The American Florists’ Exchange and Los Angeles Flower Market recently published a book titled, “Sending Flowers to America: Stories of the Los Angeles Flower Market and the People Who Built an American Floral Industry.” The book retails at $64.95 and tells the tales of a few industry families. The Ecke family is among those featured, and the book is broken into chapters that tell the American floral industry’s story in chronological order. “Sending Flowers to America” contains 288 pages and more than 350 photos. “We are very pleased to present this archival quality record of the milestones in our history,” says Johnny Mellano, manager of the Los Angeles Flower Market and a grower whose family story is among those featured in the book. “These stories have been passed down to us through generations. It’s time we record them for those who follow in our footsteps and those across America who […]

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December 17, 2008

Hines Sale Moves Forward

Black Diamond Capital Management LLC will be purchasing Hines Horticulture, bringing one of the nation’s largest growing operations out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The asset purchase agreement was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware this week. Based in Irvine, Calif., Hines has seven facilities spanning 4,000 acres of outdoor and greenhouse production in Arizona, California, Texas and Oregon. Hines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August and Black Diamond was secured early on to be the lead bidder during the bankruptcy sale process. No other bidders came forward with a better offer. The sale price has not been revealed yet. Based in Lake Forest, Ill., Black Diamond is a privately held alternative asset management firm that manages about $5.4 billion in assets across hedge funds, control distressed/private equity funds and collateralized loan obligation vehicles. According to Stuart Erickson, managing director of Miller Buckfire […]

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