December 31, 2013

Plants Are Our Friends — With Benefits

Communicating the health benefits of plants is an effective way to market to younger generations.

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Laura Drotleff (right) and Robin Siktberg

December 2, 2013

Change And The Next 30 Years Of The Greenhouse Industry [Opinion]

The December 2013 issue of Greenhouse Grower is all about change. Change for you and your greenhouse business and for our industry as a whole. Some changes will be no-brainers. Some will be hard. Some will take a lot of imagination and creativity. But they’re all changes for the better.

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October 18, 2013

Grower Trials Benefit The Whole Industry [Opinion]

Each year, growers are faced with the choice of what to grow for the following spring. It’s an important decision requiring evaluation of a number of factors: what sold well last year, what shipped well, what will fit into the production schedule, what had a decent profit margin. And then there are the hundreds of new varieties that are introduced each year. Which ones should a grower try, if any? This is where field trials come in, and is one reason we devote significant space to the results in our November issue each year. Trials are where the wheat is separated from the chaff. Field trials used to be the primary province of university horticulture departments, but more and more, growers are running their own. It is a significant investment of time and resources, so what is the reason? Al Gerace, owner of Welby Gardens in Fort Collins, Colo., says […]

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September 12, 2013

Smaller, Longer-blooming Shrubs Are Becoming More Popular [Opinion]

If I hadn’t noticed before, it would’ve been hard to miss the trend toward dwarf shrubs as submissions came in for our perennial and shrub roundup. I’m glad to see it — while I love forsythia, spiraea and viburnums in all their giant glory, the larger sizes are not always practical. Novice gardeners are intimidated by the need to prune these larger shrubs in order to keep them within the bounds of the landscape bed, especially if they are near the house. Breeders are working hard to produce newer, smaller versions of old favorites. Many are selected for longer bloom times or reblooming and offer foliage interest, as well. Nowhere is this more evident than in the genus hydrangea.  A particular favorite of mine at Spring Trials this year was Hydrangea ‘Bobo,’ by Proven Winners. At just three feet tall, this H. paniculata cultivar still has full-size flowers, giving maximum […]

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August 19, 2013

Remembering Chief Redsneaks And Appreciating Each Day [Opinion]

I am in a somewhat pensive mood today. We need only to watch the news or read the paper to see that there are lots of bad things going on in the world and realize bad things can happen to good people. But the fact is, there are many more good people than bad, and many more positive events than negative. This is not simply a rose-colored glasses view. We need only to watch the news a little longer or read the paper all the way through. The workplace may have its downsides, but most of us would rather be doing what we are doing than anything else. The people we work with, well, yes — there are yahoos out there, to be sure, but most are pretty good people. All in all, a pleasant bunch. And good grief, if you are fortunate to be loved by someone, life is […]

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August 19, 2013

Good News On The Economy [Opinion]

Despite a season with frustrating weather, it was great to see mostly positive reports coming in from our Spring 2013 Recap Survey. And it was even better to see an article in the August 12th issue of Time that provided support on a macro level to what growers are saying they’re seeing in their own businesses. In “Why the Economy Should Pop,” author Robert Altman, former deputy secretary of the treasury during the Clinton Administration, says the economy is growing (1.7 percent in the second quarter) and is poised for significant growth in 2014 — in the 3 to 5 percent range. He expects this growth to continue for two or three more years. It’s good news for the green industry, because some of the factors driving this growth directly affect plant purchasing. Altman says growth in the housing market is key. The glut of unsold homes has finally normalized, […]

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August 9, 2013

Growing New Growers [Opinion]

One of my favorite evenings of the year is Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, in which we present our Medal of Excellence and Grower of the Year Awards.The evening is special because it gives us a chance to step back and take a look at some really outstanding achievements in plant breeding and to recognize people who have made horticulture their life’s work. At no time is the energy in the room more palpable than when the award for Head Grower of the Year is announced. Growers nominated for this award usually have devoted staff who are excited and hopeful their boss will win. This year, Four Star Greenhouses had several dozen employees in attendance, all wearing t-shirts that said “I ❤ Me Some Crum Cake,” in support of their head grower, Dennis Crum. They erupted in applause when he was announced as the winner, and their joy was infectious. […]

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February 11, 2013

Greenhouse Industry Consolidation May Not Be A Bad Thing (Opinion)

In the year I’ve been with Greenhouse Grower, we’ve reported at least once a month on companies being merged with or purchased by someone else. Breeders, suppliers, growers — no area of the industry has been exempt. Agribio/Ecke, Griffin/Syngenta Hort, BASF/Becker Underwood and more. Just this morning, Rough Brothers announced they were consolidating Golden Pacific Structures’ product line. Harder to report on are the number of businesses closing or declaring bankruptcy: Elzinga Hoeksema, Ellison’s, XS Smith, Kerry’s. It’s a sign of a maturing industry, experts say, and no doubt they’re right. In some cases that process has been accelerated by a struggling economy. We wanted to know what the industry at large thought of this trend, so we posed the question in our annual State of the Industry survey late last year. (For the full report visit GreenhouseGrower.com/March2013.) Not surprisingly, the question elicited some strong opinions on both sides. “I […]

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January 10, 2013

Paying It Forward (opinion)

Maybe it’s the time of year that’s putting me in a reflective mood, but I want to express how grateful I am to have been involved in horticulture for so long. While it’s a competitive industry, it is also collaborative, as evidenced by the trade and professional associations that are such an important part of our business. When we announced plans to expand our GROW program, more than a dozen companies signed up almost immediately, eager to participate in solutions for the problems facing the industry today. Growers and suppliers I talk with are, without exception, willing to share their expertise with others. While I don’t have direct experience, my impression is that few other industries are as forthcoming.   Supporting Land-Grant Research Writing the article about Dick Meister and the new scholarship bearing his name was particularly pleasurable for me. As a graduate of a land-grant university myself, I […]

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November 7, 2012

Doing What You Do Best (opinion)

Last month, in this column, I proposed taking one thing you are doing in your business and changing it. I talked about thinking out of the box and not doing things the same way “because we’ve always done it that way.” In this issue, we are proud to feature two businesses who did exactly that (not in relation at all to my column). Young’s Plant Farm and nearby Auburn University collaborated on finding a sustainable alternative to peat moss that resulted in a renewable product that also saved money. It is a great example of working together for the good of the individual business and ultimately, of our industry, if the effort spawns similar projects. And just 30 minutes down the road from Greenhouse Grower’s offices, BFG Supply was quietly launching another out-of-the-box initiative. Its Stock-Up program for retailers is a natural extension of the same program for growers. Both […]

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August 2, 2012

From Hobby To Lifestyle

When I interviewed Joe Lamp’l for this month’s Perspective column, his message — that we need to make gardening as sexy and cool as the Food Network has made cooking — really resonated with me. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before. Since I already like gardening, nobody has to make it cool for me. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to think he’s right. What’s more, I think gardening is poised in a perfect position to become as cool as cooking. It has all the ingredients (pardon the pun):  it has a natural connection with the organic, get-back-to-the-earth movement, it’s outdoors — good for exercise and health, it fits in with the locally grown food trend, and it blends well in a multitude of ways with the lifestyle trend of creating personal spaces for entertaining and relaxation that express individual creativity. Lamp’l’s […]

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