Fall Crops: More Than Mums

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‘Field of Dreams’ corn features cream- and pink-striped variegation on the foliage, and never fails to catch consumer attention. Its height and foliage texture combine well with wallflowers and ornamental cabbage.

In the fall there is a fresh crispness in the air, enticing gardeners everywhere to spruce up their gardens, patios and porches. Summertime hinted of an improvement in the marketplace and, as the days start to get shorter, we are witnessing the beginnings of the housing market making a steady (and in some places very impressive) comeback.
The modern American homeowner is again ready to dig in, excited to celebrate everything she has worked so hard to get and eager to share her success with friends. So let’s give her something new and exciting to work with!

In addition to the autumn bread-and-butter crop, chrysanthemums, there are many products that should be promoted this fall in order to maintain and contribute to the momentum we are experiencing. The assortment is expanding from the reliable mum to the more interesting and varied. Wallflower, calendula, kale, ornamental corn, millet, grasses and chili peppers are just a few options.

Wallflowers Are The New Fallflower
Wallflowers are gaining in popularity. Floranova is promoting its new wallflower, ‘Sugar Rush,’ with the tagline, “Wallflower is indeed the new Fallflower.” Varieties such as ‘Sugar Rush’ provide a full range of rich fall colors to complement pansies and violas. Perfect for sales in everything from packs to combination planters, the multiple basal branching and impressive vigor of wallflowers create an eye-catching display from fall through spring. Wallflowers make a statement when used in the landscape in large color blocks and are equally effective when used alongside pansies and violas in combinations.

For growers, wallflowers offer an extremely quick turnaround. ‘Sugar Rush’ requires no vernalization and can be produced from an early fall sowing in as little as nine weeks. Now is the perfect time to introduce America to the new and improved staple of the English garden.

Leafy Greens Add Fall Color
Flowering kale is a faithful bread winner and is enjoyed throughout the cooler months in most of the country. Varieties like ‘Glamour,’ ‘Kamome,’ ‘Nagoya’ and ‘Peacock’ provide bright colors and interesting leaf formations. In addition to ornamental kale, there are also some interesting edible kales, mustards and lettuces that can add variety to fall plantings.

‘Broad-Leaf Red Giant’ mustard looks great in the landscape, and purple ‘Mizuna’ works well in mixed containers. In addition to the multitude of edible brassicas and lettuces, certain herbs can stand in as fall ornamentals, too. Until frost sets in, bronze fennel can be used to add height to the flower garden, and its feathery, scented fronds add texture in the landscape.

Use Grains For Their Fruits And Foliage
Corn, sorghum and millet are more traditional fall foliage accompaniments, providing height, as well as color. Corn and millet can be used to extend the fall purchasing calendar not only through Halloween, but also to get a second sale at Thanksgiving, cashing in on the notion of harvest and abundance.

While these varieties are traditionally valued for their color, some types are also edible. ‘Field of Dreams’ corn is a flashy addition. A bright rainbow of stripy colors from burgundy to gold can be coaxed from this variety easily by withholding nutrients and an application or two of PGR. Petite Indian ear corn is perfect for popping, adding an edible component, which is increasingly desired by consumers.

‘Purple Majesty’ millet is a favorite used to add dark dramatic hues of burgundy and purple to landscapes and containers. Tufts of grain evoke autumn and the feeling of good old-fashioned harvest time. For darker bronze and purple accents, ‘Princess Caroline’ is tried-and-true and hard to surpass when aiming for a satisfied home gardener.

Takii has really outstanding ornamental grasses that are very hardy and perfect for fall sales. While elegant and beautiful for the majority of the year, at Halloween, the spiraling erratic strands are reminiscent of something the Bride of Frankenstein herself would cultivate! There are so many grasses to use in a range of height, textures and colors. One can always be found to complement any fall mixed container or landscape installment.

Don’t Forget Peppers, Pansies And Pot Marigolds
Calendula (pot marigold) is another option that is often overshadowed by mums. It thrives in the fall and offers the perfect autumn pallete of yellow, gold and orange. It has a sweet herbaceous scent that some compare to candy corn. Calendula excels in the landscape as well as in pots and has long been coveted for its medicinal qualities, spicy leaves and edible flowers. There are many reasons that it should be an easily promotable substitute for or companion to the mum.

In many parts of the country, fall is the season ornamental peppers really kick in and put on a show. In addition to being edible, the assortment available today offers wonderfully colored fruit that fits in perfectly with the Halloween theme. Dwarf and basket types make fantastic components to spooky combinations.

Look for black, red, orange and purple fruit that drips over the sides of containers, or candy-colored fruit displayed on top of the foliage, emulating a bowl of delectable (but hot!) treats. There are many great varieties of peppers just asking to be the centerpiece of autumn holiday combinations. At Floranova, we like to pair ours with near-black trailing pansies and novelty violas.

Let’s Extend Our Sales Season
This season, alongside mums, let’s make way for a few new crops to inspire the consumer. When the homeowner purchases a plant and incorporates it into her decorating scheme, everyone gets the press, thanks to social media. Everyone wants something new and different, and providing consumers with interesting new options benefits the entire industry. GG

Amy Gard’ner (agardner@floranova.com) earned her horticulture degree at the University of Georgia. After a year and a half at the UGA trial gardens, she came to work in product development for Floranova in July of 2012.
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