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
labor-supply-and-quality

March 27, 2017

Your Help is Needed to Save H-2B Returning Worker Exemp…

AmericanHort is leading the charge on this effort, but you can also help by contacting your elected officials via phone calls and social media, or by sending AmericanHort your personal story.

Read More
Pythium

March 27, 2017

Florida Ornamental Growers Took a Hit in 2016 Thanks to…

While damage figures from the 2015-2016 winter rains are still being compiled, researchers have found that Phytophthora and Pythium caused severe destruction in many plants.

Read More
Argus Multi-Feed RM - feature

March 26, 2017

Feeding System Allows For More Precise Delivery of Nutr…

Argus Controls’ Multi-Feed RM100 is designed to help producers custom-feed their plants based on specific nutrient recipes.

Read More
If your Wi-Fi is truly secure, your staff can help customers on the sales floor starting today

March 25, 2017

What Marketing Approach Can Attracts the Most Customers…

Inc.com surveyed more than a thousand customers to find out which marketing strategies worked best to entice them to try out a new business

Read More
Leanne Kenealy, Hoffman Nursery

March 24, 2017

New Horticulturist At Hoffman Nursery Will Focus On Dev…

Leanne Kenealy, who brings great experience in plant evaluation, says introducing consumers to new plants can hopefully generate renewed excitement for gardening.

Read More
GrowSpan Series 1000 Greenhouse (GrowSpan) feature

March 24, 2017

New Greenhouse Structure Models Emphasize Crop Protecti…

Manufacturers of new structure models say they are responding to grower concerns with designs that focus on ventilation, maximizing your space, and incorporating a wide range of crops. Here’s a look at some of their latest offerings.

Read More
GCA Summer Tour 2017 Andersons Newport Beach

March 23, 2017

Garden Centers of America Unveils Stops on Its Summer T…

Registration for the event, which includes visits to several garden centers each with their own unique highlights, is now open.

Read More
Bee on Lavender feature

March 23, 2017

Allan Armitage: Plant Consumers Don’t Talk About …

Allan Armitage says it's time to get in touch with our true audience and market plant solutions, not plant products.

Read More
Aspabroc Broccolini Sakata Vegetables Feature

March 22, 2017

Growing Tips for Sakata Vegetables’ ‘Aspabroc’ Br…

‘Aspabroc’ resembles a broccoli raab with an asparagus stem, has a mild taste, and requires little growing space.

Read More
Spin Top Gaillardia Series (Dummen Orange)

March 22, 2017

New Perennials and Tender Perennials for 2018 from Cali…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the true perennials and tender perennials that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. Here's a sampling of some of the varieties hitting retail shelves in 2018.

Read More
National Garden Bureau New Website

March 22, 2017

National Garden Bureau’s New Website Features Mobile-Fr…

The new site is designed to serve as a home base to drive traffic from NGB’s social media community to one central location.

Read More
Emerald Coast Growers Seed RoomTight feature

March 22, 2017

An Inside Look at Emerald Coast Growers’ New Seed…

Florida-based liner producer Emerald Coast Growers custom retrofitted and expanded an existing greenhouse, with the goal of increasing production efficiency.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Prod…

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More
Lemnis Oreon Lights

March 21, 2017

Lemnis Oreon, EnviroTech Cultivation Solutions to Partn…

EnviroTech’s expertise in energy and water technology fits perfectly with the water-cooling solution of Oreon Grow Lights, according to the companies.

Read More

March 20, 2017

AgBiome’s New Zio Biofungicide Receives EPA Regis…

The new biofungicide is the first product from AgBiome, and will be marketed by SePRO Corp. in the ornamentals market.

Read More
Oat Grass Banker System feature

March 20, 2017

How You Can Market the Benefits of Biocontrols

Educating retailers and end consumers about the use of biocontrols and why it’s important has helped Fessler Nursery gain new customers and profits.

Read More

March 20, 2017

Neonic Insect Control Alternative Offers Favorable Prof…

Altus, a butenolide class insecticide with the active ingredient flupyradifurone, will be available beginning May 1, and is labeled for greenhouse and nursery use on ornamental plants, vegetable transplants, and indoor vegetable production.

Read More
Brian Munchel

March 18, 2017

Brian Munchel of Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing Dies at …

Munchel, a long-time member of the National Greenhouse Manufacturing Association, worked at Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing for more than 30 years and was a computer-aided draftsman.

Read More