Popular Perennials At Retail
Allan Armitage conducts his own survey on the best-selling perennials at retail.
November 12, 2012
When discussing perennials, the topic that always comes up is, “What’s new?” There is no doubt that the newest of the new is a talking point and, certainly, having the newest variety provides distance between companies vying for the same dollar. I don’t think anyone would dispute that new is necessary. After all, nobody asks, “What’s old?” But what they should be asking is, “What would you recommend?”
One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, and what is new to one person may not be new to others. New to the consumer is approximately three years old, and new to the grower is two years old — compared to people who track the new plants.
In fact, for all the hollering and touting of new plants (and I am as guilty as anyone), you may be surprised by which perennials are popular at the retail level. At the OFA Perennial Symposium in Grand Rapids, Mich., last September, I surveyed approximately 30 retailers before my presentation and then those present in the room. I asked, “What five cultivars of perennial X do you sell the most of?” I did not expect the newest plants to be on the list, because of production time and availability, but I thought that a lot of “newish” plants would be there. Not always the case! I also did not expect to see so many plants at least 10 years old on the list.
I asked about 14 different genera. The lists below show the results.
* These are informal data only, based on a very small sample size.
Big Bang Series
'Pow Wow Wild Berry'
'Viette's Little Suzy'
'Giles van Hees'
Many more cultivars were listed, but these are the ones that came up most often.
These are all fine cultivars, but I must say I was struck with the continued popularity of cultivars like ‘Moonshine,’ ‘September Charm,’ the Clip series, ‘Early Sunrise,’ ‘Siskiyou Pink,’ and ‘Palace Purple.’
This attests to the longevity of good cultivars, as well as the fact that many of the older ones are well into production, cost is less and growers know what they are dealing with. Someone once said, “New cultivars are the lifeblood of the industry,” and I don’t doubt that one bit, but I might amend it to, “Good cultivars are the lifeblood of the industry.”
Allan Armitage is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. You can eMail him at allan@greenhouse grower.com.