Candidly Speaking On Perennials

The Perennial Farm, based in Glen Arm, Md., is a greenhouse operation that produces perennials, ornamental grasses, groundcovers and more for independent garden centers and landscapers. Greenhouse Grower recently caught up with The Perennial Farm’s owner, Rick Watson, and its sales and marketing director, Ed Kiley, for a broad discussion on perennials, how growers are handling new varieties and the potential they see for perennials in 2011.

GG: What has you two excited at The Perennial Farm for 2011?

Ed Kiley: We always have new material we’re coming out with. We’re a little more conservative introducing new material than other growers because there’s always a mad rush for “new” to create some sizzle. The downside is you wind up with some plants that are not so great. Great examples are ‘Limerock Ruby’ coreopsis and ‘Orange Meadowbrite’ echinacea.

Rick Watson: A lot of the [research and development] doesn’t happen with the breeders. It happens with the growers. I wish it wasn’t that way. When the breeders get something new, they want to introduce it to the market quickly in an effort to make money. But is it hardy? Is it stable? What’s the longevity?

EK: It’s like somebody’s sitting in a back room somewhere, tweaking the breeding a little bit, and they’re trying to tout it to the marketplace.

GG: So of all the new perennial varieties being released, what percentage would you say are duds?

RW: Well, a dud could be a variety that’s not hardy or doesn’t perform well in a pot. A dud could also be an old variety that’s been updated, and we want to replace it with a better, more vigorous, longer-blooming variety.

EK: We navigate across promoting tried-and-true favorites – plants that work year-round, and can withstand heat and humidity and cold winters. At the same time, we go through a reasonable number of introductions. What growers should be promoting are perennials that are tried and true with a smattering of some of these new, sexy things.

GG: How about attracting new people to perennial gardening and developing novice gardeners into avid gardeners? If, as you suggest, a number of new perennial varieties are unproven, aren’t perennial growers at risk of scaring new gardeners away when their new varieties fail?

RW: Every year, there’s a certain percentage of new gardeners who come on the market. I think it’s important, especially for novice gardeners, that they have success in gardening. If they don’t, they’re going to quickly lose interest. It’s not going to be a good thing for our industry. They need to be out there having success.

EK: And if a garden center is focused on just the new, sexy varieties – and some of them are – then the homeowner’s experience could be a disaster. Especially if they’re getting their feet wet and just buying whatever the garden center is pushing.

The garden center’s message to the new gardener should be basic gardens with tried-and-true plants, and a sprinkling of some of the new, sexy stuff.

GG: What about perennial growers? Do you think they’re focusing too much on new varieties and jumping the gun on them before they’re actually proven?

EK:
The way many growers differentiate is to latch onto somebody’s new plant. So they latch onto new plants, and sizzle sells of course. Coreopsis ‘Crème Brulee,’ and ‘Limerock Ruby’: These were hot, hot plants five years ago. Everybody had to have them. Now, they’re like the lepers of the perennial community.

GG: How do you think perennials’ 2011 potential stacks up against other plant categories?

RW: When you look at all the different parts of the green market – trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials – I still think perennials are the strongest of the group. You have to add in what’s happening with the economy. Perennials are still one of the best five out there for price value and the fact that you’re getting a lot of new varieties every year. When you look at perennials versus annuals, trees and shrubs, there are more varieties coming into the perennials market.

To that point, I think it’s important to add plants like natives. They’re a hot-button thing.

EK: Over the next few years, I think you’re going to see a shakeout with some of the perennial growers. I don’t think they have an understanding of their costs. With perennials, you can be a little more reactive to market demands than with trees and shrubs, but I think there is a very poor understanding of all the costs with perennials when you consider the feeder material, the pots, the labor, maintaining them, the overhead, infrastructure and the variable costs to get them sold.

You’re going to see a shakeout, and the people who do have control of their costs and are trying to offer more value will benefit.

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories

July 23, 2016

AmericanHort Kicks Off Cultivate’16 By Announcing Major…

Even though Cultivate’16 just wrapped up, it’s not too early to find out about the many changes you can expect for 2017.

Read More
Workers

July 23, 2016

5 Reasons To Invest In Employee Training

Training and developing your employees is critical to the future success of your organization and the horticulture industry at large. Here are five reasons why your employees are worth the effort.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Ed…

Taking something as ubiquitous as vegetables and herbs and giving it a fresh new look is no easy task, but Pleasant View Gardens took on the challenge with extensive research and creative marketing.

Read More
Dummen New Columbus Office

July 21, 2016

Dümmen Orange Opens New North American Headquarters In …

The new office, which officially opened during Cultivate’16, supports the company’s vision to be integrated into a vibrant and inspiring community, and provides a bright, modern workspace for its approximately 30 local employees.

Read More
BeeSmart

July 21, 2016

How You Can Get Involved In Research

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) supports scientific research and students for the advancement of the horticultural industry.

Read More
Pollen Free Lisianthus

July 20, 2016

Sakata Seed Develops World’s First Pollen-Free Lisianth…

With no stamen to produce pollen, the new Lisianthus varieties have improved flower durability and the benefit of no scattered pollen that can cause staining of flowers and machines.

Read More
Floral Greenhouse at Vineland Research Centre

July 20, 2016

Research And Commercialization Unite At The New Vinelan…

The new, pre-scale commercial greenhouse facility at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland Station, ON, will help accelerate the commercialization of innovative technologies and products coming out of research.

Read More

July 20, 2016

How To Prevent Greenhouse Heating Leaks

Ethylene from malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop injury, while carbon monoxide can lead to worker illness. Know the symptoms and how to check greenhouse heaters to avoid these concerns.

Read More
Luxflora Flower Run

July 20, 2016

First-Ever Flower Run Was A Big Success, Luxflora Says

Kicking off Cultivate’16 on Sunday, July 10, Luxflora’s first annual 5K saw nearly 150 participants racing through the picturesque Scioto Audubon Park in Columbus under clear blue skies and perfect conditions. It was a great way to start the week, participants said. Congratulations to the winners of the first-ever Flower Run: First Place: Jacob Griffith Gardner Second Place: Mike Goyette Third Place: Jack Ford The top three winners — and all of the Flower Run participants — were showered with flower petals when they crossed the finish line, making for a colorful and fragrant finish to an invigorating experience. “Personally, I would consider it a grand success,” says Luxflora President Rebecca Lusk. “The overall mood was fantastic, from start to finish. There were many high fives and group hugs, numerous duo phone selfies and postings to social media, while participants enjoyed their bananas and bottled water donated by Experience Columbus. Most […]

Read More
Top 100 Breakfast Panel for 2016

July 19, 2016

Top 100 Growers Talk Labor, Automation, And Sustainabil…

More than 60 growers got up with the sun at Cultivate’16 to hear a four-person panel discuss hot topics such as labor, automation, and sustainability at Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Breakfast, sponsored by BASF.

Read More

July 19, 2016

17 New Vegetable Intros For Greenhouse Production

New varieties of edibles introduced at 2016 California Spring Trials offer something for every type of gardener, from the beginning do-it-yourselfer to the hardcore, heirloom-only type. Check out some of the new varieties we saw at Spring Trials this year that will be available for retail in 2017.

Read More

July 19, 2016

A Look Back At Greenhouse Grower’s Evening Of Excellenc…

Greenhouse Grower held its annual Evening of Excellence event on Monday, July 11, during Cultivate’16. Check out the slideshow to see some of the highlights of the festivities. You’re sure to recognize a few familiar faces!

Read More
Cultivate 2016 Town Hall Panel

July 19, 2016

Town Hall Panel At Cultivate Focuses On Selling To A Ne…

Why are we still trying to sell our products in the 21st century using a model straight out of the 1980s? This was the main question raised during the annual Town Hall panel discussion that took place at Cultivate’16.

Read More

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our …

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at [email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More

July 19, 2016

Are You Bar Coding Your Plants Like Other Garden Retail…

We asked garden retailers how they bar code several plant categories. Take a look at our results and learn how in sync are you with your peers.

Read More
Sid Raisch

July 19, 2016

What Sid Raisch’s New Role At Bower & Branch …

The garden industry consultant answers questions about his new role in an e-commerce oriented company.

Read More

July 19, 2016

First Five Plants To Win 2017 All-America Selections An…

All-America Selections (AAS) has announced its first five winning plants for 2017. Three of the five are national winners, and two are regional winners. And of the five, one is an ornamental plant, while the other four are edibles. A panel of independent judges selected these plants after reviewing trial performances. AAS says all these plants are available for immediate purchase. Here’s the list of winners: Celosia ‘Asian Garden’ (2017 Ornamental From Seed National Winner). This celosia winning in North America’s trial sites makes it the first ever AAS Winner from Japanese breeding company Murakami Seed. The judges gave this entry high marks in the greenhouse for the good branching, almost bushy growth habit, and early-to-bloom flower spikes. In the garden, ‘Asian Garden’ celosia continued to bloom on sturdy stems, keeping the bright pink color all summer long, holding up even through some of the first frosts of the season. The AAS judges commented on […]

Read More

July 19, 2016

Home Depot Sues Credit Card Companies For Weakening EMV…

Home Depot has decided enough is enough. The mass merchant is suing MasterCard and Visa for colluding on interchange rates, which it claims it enforces through a monopoly, and for watering down the effectiveness of EMV chips by not requiring PINs in the U.S. In the lawsuit (read a PDF of the 140 page document), Home Depot’s lawyers state: “For years, Visa and MasterCard have been more concerned with protecting their own inflated profits and their dominant market positions than with the security of the payment cards used by American consumers and the health of the United States economy. Visa and MasterCard have pushed consumers to use payment card technology that Visa and MasterCard know is defective and subject to fraud and have colluded with each other and with the banks that issue debit and credit cards to do so. They have also unlawfully fixed at high levels the so-called […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]