A Wait-And-See Approach To Variety Selection Serves The Customer Best At Armstrong Growers


Greenhouse Grower’s Medal Of Excellence For Industry’s Choice panelist James Russell of Armstrong Growers discusses standout varieties from 2015 California Spring Trials and explains how his team decided on the plants that would be chosen for production at their operations.

Team Armstrong included myself, Production Manager Heather Hydoski, Desert Operations Manager Anthony Pytel and Sales Manager John Mellon. We make variety selections for our own trials during this event that will ultimately make the actual changes in the programs we offer our customers. Over the years, we have learned to hold back and wait to see how plants perform in the ground before we make any additions or deletions. Many new plants stand out and tempt us to jump into full production, and, yes, we still break the rule occasionally in the name of getting a plant out before our competition does. We feel our customer should not be the test case, so we limit these breaks from the rule.

This year, with the California drought conditions, we made sure we looked for more water-efficient plants to add to the extensive list we currently have in production. We are reclassifying our perennial lines to reflect a more cohesive water message. Since we serve the desert regions of the Southwest, we are always looking for hot and dry plants. This year, water-wise plants will be going up in numbers for all areas of California.

Our selections also reflect the specialty retailers we grow for. We often can make an odd color or unique plant sell because our customers provide the in-store service to tell the story. Breeders deserve to have their story told for all the hard work they spend bringing the plant to market. We are also good at messaging the merits of a series that provides a solution in the garden.

The resort and landscape professionals we serve trust us to know if the plants we recommend will work. Garden performance is a must for all main color, shrub and perennial lines we grow. We rely on early samples for our own test gardens and information we gain from other trials. Each year at California Spring Trials, we strive to improve the offering by constantly challenging our current line up and listening to the breeders for the fine tuning they make to their lines. Many times we find major changes that warrant a whole new series. All selections are made in the name of what is best for our customers’ properties.

Armstrong Growers’ Plant Picks

Low Water, Hot/Dry Conditions
• Ipomoea ‘Solar Power’ (Ball FloraPlant)
• Amaranthus ‘Molten Fire’ (Thompson & Morgan)
• Garvinea Gerbera (Florist Holland)
• Dianthus ‘Deltoides Red Gem’ (Thompson & Morgan)
• Portulaca Sun Dome Series (Sakata Seed)
• Salvia Summer Jewel Series (American Takii)
• Artemesia ‘Parfum d’ Ethiopia’ (Dümmen Orange)
• Mercardonia ‘Magic Carpet’ (Sakata Seed)

Independent Garden Center Customer Appeal
• Mandevilla ‘Summer Romance Vining Yellow’ (Ball Ingenuity)
• Cordyline ‘Electric Flash’ (Green Fuse Botanicals)
• Salvia splendens Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)
• Coleus ‘Main Street Dutch Mill Drive’ (Dümmen Orange)
• Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’ (Dümmen Orange)
• Lomandra ‘Platinum Beauty’ (Sunset/Kiwiflora)
• Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Holy Moly’ (Proven Winners)

New And Exciting Perennials
• Leucanthemum ‘Luna’ (Terra Nova Nurseries)
• Scabiosa ‘Ritz Blue’ (Benary)
• Monarda ‘Leading Lady’ (Proven Winners/Walters Gardens)
• Kniphofia ‘Rockette’ (EuroAmerican Propagators)
• Lithodora ‘Crystal Blue’ (Terra Nova Nurseries)
• Sedum ‘Dark Magic’ (Terra Nova Nurseries)
•Digitalis ‘Foxlight Ruby Glow’ (Darwin Perennials)

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