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
Feature Image Cob 700 (NewLux)

May 29, 2016

Michigan State University Offering Summer Online Course…

The seven-unit course is aimed at greenhouse and ornamental plant growers who want to learn more about the fundamental concepts of how plants respond to light quality, quantity, and duration.

Read More
Sakata Birthday Cake Feature

May 28, 2016

10 Creative Marketing Ideas From 2016 California Spring…

Grower-retailers often look to breeders for ideas on how to increase plant sales with smart marketing plans. The California Spring Trials were filled with great concepts to reach customers.

Read More
Pollinator-friendly perennials are a big hit with eco-concious consumers

May 27, 2016

Which Pollinator Terms Appeal Most To Consumers?

A team from the University of Florida tested several promotional phrases, from the specific ("butterflies" and "bees") to more general.

Read More
Harvest Automation HV 100 Feature

May 27, 2016

Harvest Automation Robot Helps You Move Plants Without …

The Harvest Automation HV-100 robot units use lasers and sensors to handle some of the most labor-intensive tasks in the greenhouse.

Read More
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover…

The National Garden Bureau is once again organizing summer vegetables trials this August in California, giving attendees the opportunity to visit with several breeding companies.

Read More
IGC App For 2016 Shows

May 26, 2016

IGC Shows Release Free Apps To Help You Plan For Both T…

Free event planning apps for each show are now available for download in the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

Read More
SBI Rack Scanning feature

May 26, 2016

Take Your Data Management To The Next Level

New developments in software technology allow growers to customize inventory, tracking, and labor performance into systems unique to their greenhouse operations.

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials G…

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

May 25, 2016

15 New Perennials For Bees, Butterflies, And Other Poll…

These 15 new perennials, available for retail in 2016 and 2017, will produce colorful flowers and foliage year after year, providing habitat and food for bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other pollinators.

Read More
P.Allen Smith Cut Flowers

May 25, 2016

Sakata Seed America And P. Allen Smith Extend Partnersh…

Sakata is taking its partnership with plantsman P. Allen Smith a step further to create the P. Allen Smith Home Grown Cut Flowers Collection, a selection of premium cut flower seed hand-picked by Smith and bred exclusively by Sakata.

Read More
Triathlon BA container shot

May 24, 2016

OHP’s Triathlon Biofungicide Now Listed By The Organic …

Triathlon BA is a broad-spectrum preventative biofungicide that provides control of many foliar and soilborne diseases in ornamentals and herbs.

Read More
Costa Farms won International Grower of the Year. Representing the operation, (left to right) were Chuck Zala, Michael Vera, Menachem Ganon, Jose Costa, and Mike Rimland

May 24, 2016

AIPH Seeking Entries For Its International Grower of th…

The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) is inviting ornamental growers from all around the world to enter the AIPH International Grower of the Year Awards (IGOTY) for 2017. Last year’s big winner was Florida-based Costa Farms.

Read More
Coleus Fancy Feathers Pink (Terra Nova Nurseries)

May 23, 2016

Take A Sneak Peek at Terra Nova Nurseries’ New Coleus F…

A brand-new collection of Terra Nova Nurseries coleus varieties called the Fancy Feathers Series is now available to growers for online orders. The series produces narrow, feather-like leaves and offers a mounded habit.

Read More
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

May 23, 2016

What’s Good For The Environment Is Good For Business [O…

Investing in technology to become more sustainable “always goes hand in hand,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “If it is good for the environment, it normally is good for business over the long term.” That connection was abundantly clear in the responses we received to this year’s Top 100 Growers Survey. VanWingerden points to three investments Metrolina has made as good examples of how technology can reduce an operation’s carbon footprint and pay dividends financially. Its biomass system burns locally sourced waste wood — a renewable resource; its ozone water treatment system cleans irrigation water, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and improving plant quality and precision growing; and electrostatic sprayers reduce water and chemical use, and provide more targeted chemical applications. Other Top 100 Growers have found VanWingerden’s theory to be true, as well. Costa Farms’ investment in solar energy panels on three buildings at its […]

Read More

May 23, 2016

Ian Baldwin Sees Several Garden Trends Developing This …

The garden industry consultant reads the mid-spring tea leaves and sees several trends emerging.

Read More

May 23, 2016

Manhattan’s Urban Garden Center Suffers Second Di…

Two years after a nearby gas explosion destroyed the store in Manhattan's Spanish Harlem, Urban Garden Center had a four-alarm fire that disrupted a popular train route, and the garden retailer is now dealing with an angry community.

Read More
Aerial_view_of_the_Bayer_cross_high_res

May 23, 2016

Bayer Sells Consumer Garden Products Division To French…

The sale to SBM Développement comes just as Bayer AG makes a bid for Monsanto.

Read More
GG Tech Editorial Advisors Feature Image

May 23, 2016

Meet The New Editorial Advisors For Greenhouse Growe…

Greenhouse Grower TECHNOLOGY presents the inaugural members of its Editorial Advisory Board, six pillars of knowledge about greenhouse automation and technology. Get to know each of these gentlemen and what they’ll help bring to each issue.

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