Foliage Offers Texture And Interest To The Garden

Sedum ‘Beach Party’

It is no secret that American consumers want it all, and that sentiment is true in the garden as well. Despite smaller property sizes and dwindling free time, consumers still want their homes to look like the homes and estates they see highlighted in Better Homes & Gardens and on HGTV.

They also want all the beauty without all the work. Consumers don’t have the luxury of putting a great deal of time and effort in garden design and upkeep; and generally, they don’t have the desire to do so. As a result, consumers are looking beyond colorful annuals to fill their
containers, garden beds and borders.

The Perennial Foliage Trend

One trend points to the fact that consumers are using more perennials with colorful foliage to provide texture, interest and unique appeal. It is not to say that plants known for their blooming and colorful flowers are used less frequently or have lower value. Foliage, however, is an equal partner alongside flowering color that consumers are appreciating in new ways.
“Consumers enjoy foliage much more now because they are learning what works and what holds up; what lives and what does not,” says Lloyd Traven, co-owner of Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, Pa. “They have figured out that foliage, whether in the garden landscape or the pot, lasts a lot longer and is a better value as something they can use again and again. For example, some pull flowers out of a combo and rebuild it around the foliage.”

Blending the beauty of flowers and the structure and texture of foliage is ideal for consumers, and that’s what Terra Nova Nurseries is trying to accomplish with its perennial offerings.

“If flowering plants represent the beautiful faces of the horticulture world, then foliage plants represent the great bodies. One doesn’t often run into the combination of both, but when you do get both, it’s magic,” says Chuck Pavlich, Terra Nova Nurseries’ director of new product development and product licensing.

Consumers Want Interest And Value

With home values tanking and no clear end in sight for real estate market turmoil, homeowners don’t have a lot of options other than to stay put right now. Consumers are seeing a benefit in placing a longer-term investment in their beds and borders with perennials because they know that landscaping increases property values. The perennials allow them to enjoy their gardens for as long as they stay in their homes, without the annual expense, and they’re adding curb appeal. Yet, today’s consumers want plants that make their homes look memorable, unique and special, not status quo.

“Shrubs and perennials with interesting foliage provide texture along with color. This gives you a depth of shape and pattern and a length of usability that flowers alone can’t give you,” says Traven. “With foliage, you can provide frilly and lacy, broad and dramatic, huge and tiny in ways that flowers cannot.”

Plants like colocasias and alocasias provide incredible drama, ranging from small, textured leaves to “leaves the size of a Volkswagen,” jokes Traven. They can provide beauty with a bang for a relatively small price. Others, like musa, are showpieces that capture attention, and heuchera provides a broad range of colors and leaf sizes. Even more unique is heat and drought-tolerant heucherella, combining the best parts of both parents: heuchera and tiarella. Terra Nova’s heucherella breeding program targets certain characteristics from both parents and enhances them through a thoughtful selection process.

“Heuchera is available in every color from black, yellow, red, orange — any color you can think of,” Traven says. “Breeders like Terra Nova are doing an amazing job creating plants with wonderful foliage to the point that leaves are all you need at times.”

Think Foliage First

To respond to growing demand for interesting foliage, growers like Traven are turning more attention to offering plants that generate attention and excitement and make customers feel special.

“We are gravitating heavily toward foliage, perennials, texture and color as opposed to flowers,” Traven says. “Our rule at Peace Tree Farm is foliage first, with an objective to show consumers something different and provide them with new ideas. We want to get consumers excited about plants again, and new foliage with interest is one way to accomplish this.”

The company’s 2012 OFA Short Course booth followed this edict, with virtually no flowers displayed, opting rather for foliage and texture. Peace Tree debuted its Garden Geek line at the show, which is all about foliage.
According to Pavlich, growing foliage is often simpler than flowering plants and provides an extended sales window. Growers can profit from growing perennial foliage by marketing plants for their fuss-free attributes and year-round color and interest.

“Foliage plants generally require less maintenance than flowering plants. Fewer things go wrong during production, and they are less demanding,” he says. “The same is true for garden performance. Many flowers are fleeting in length of bloom time, whereas foliage may last months to years, depending on the species and climate.”

A good example is Terra Nova’s line of sedums, which have filled a gap in sales time by adding foliage color, making them more attractive to consumers, along with superior habit and performance. This gives more weeks of salability to the product.

“Terra Nova Nurseries’ sedum breeding program has transformed this genus into a garden and container star,” he says. “Our line is shorter with much more basal branching and gorgeous foliage colors of velvety maroons, bright turquoise blues and elegant gray-blues. We’ve turned them into a high-value, easy-grow, easy-sell ornamental plant.”

Focus On The Consumer

Pavlich and the team at Terra Nova Nurseries have introduced more than 700 new varieties to the global market, many of which were specifically bred for their foliage. The research and development team’s advancement of heuchera, tiarella, sedum, heucherella and other plants has given rise to a new way of using foliage in the landscape. This involves the opportunity to sell larger plants with longer shelf lives, as well as ones that offer multiple seasons of garden worthiness.

Price and value play important roles. Pavlich adds that the industry has reached a critical point with consumers’ expectations that everything should be low cost, making it difficult for plant breeders to invest in research and development for new product. “The focus should instead be on quality and value and the consumer,” he says.

“The industry is shooting itself in the foot if quality and value are not part of the money-making equation,” he says. “When faced with obvious quality choices, consumers will pay more. We just need to have consumer education in mind at all times. They know what they want, and, ultimately, they control what we breed. If we listen to them, everyone gets to see success.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plants To Give Back

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winners, Syngenta And Danziger

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plant…

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Gazania hybrid 'Amber Ice' (Cultivaris)

April 17, 2015

The 80/20 Theory Approach To Inventory Selection Is Put…

Tim Runte of Calloway Gardens is a member of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Here, he shares how he determines which plants shown at this year's California Spring Trials will make the cut at his retail stores.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Trends At California Spring Trials: AmericanHort’…

Michael Geary, CEO and president of AmericanHort, hit the road during California Spring Trials, and noted trends he saw at many of the stops. Here's one that he says we'll need to consider carefully.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Golden State Bulb At Spring Trials Has Great Appeal For…

While Golden State Bulb is a smaller stop at California Spring Trials, it’s always a treat. You not only get to see less common plants like calla lilies and eucomis, you also get to meet the passionate breeders who developed the plants you’re seeing. For plant geeks, this is a fun stop. First up, the Aloha Lily series of pineapple lily or eucomis was introduced last year, and a new variety, the dark red Kona, joined the lineup. The team at Golden State would like to see this sweet-scented series treated much like orchids by consumers. Like orchids, Aloha Lily does well in low light and has blooms that last two to three months. Now that homeowners have grown accustomed to having orchids, it just may be time to test which other long-flowering plant they would be willing to embrace. Golden State would like to see consumers approach callas in a […]

Read More
PW_calibrachoa_holy moly1

April 17, 2015

Proven Winners Shows Off Its Newest Plant Rock Stars At…

With its wide assortment of plants, great presenters and an amazing location atop a hill at a spa/resort, Proven Winners is a can’t-miss stop during California Spring Trials. The Greenhouse Grower team first visited with Proven Winners’ nursery partner, Spring Meadow, where we got to see the new shrub introductions. Shrubs Proven Winners has two new hydrangea series. The Let’s Dance series is third generation breeding and boasts strong reblooming and a compact habit. The new mountain hydrangea, ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff,’ is another rebloomer and grows to 1.5- to 2-feet tall. Its leaves take on a purple hue when they encounter cool night temperatures. The attractive new Gem Box ilex, an ink berry holly, is suggested as a boxwood replacement for those areas being hit with boxwood blight. It grows to 2- to 4-feet tall and takes full to part sun, but cannot take full shade the way boxwoods can. Spring Meado Nursery  is […]

Read More
Asian-Vegetables-Lettue-Trio-American-Takii

April 16, 2015

American Takii’s Asian Vegetable Line Is Designed…

Unlike many of the other breeders displaying at Spring Trials, American Takii didn’t have many new introductions. But it did have a new program that has prompted many visitors to post to social media — its Asian vegetables. Takii, which is well known for its vegetable breeding, is in the process of vetting the eight to 12 vegetables it will include in the program, and it should have its list fully complete by fall 2015. It is selecting plants that will be easy to use in Asian cooking and will help it stand out from the many vegetable programs in the ornamental market. The Takii marketing team designed bright-red Chinese food takeout containers to act as plant sleeves and a small booklet with five recipes. Honey Chicken With Pak Choy looked especially tasty. Take a look at how the program looks and let us know what you think.       HilverdaKooij is a […]

Read More
HGTV HOME Plant Collection_pre-made succulent container

April 16, 2015

HGTV Incorporates Plants Into Lifestyles And Helps Cons…

When we visited Dummen’s site at Edna Valley Vineyard, the HGTV HOME Plant Collection display was teeming with excited visitors checking out the new varieties, designer mixes and concepts.

Read More
Westhoff_Crazytunia_Swiss Dancer

April 16, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Some Surprising Intros At Floricul…

Allan Armitage visited three breeders at Spring Trials’ newest location, Floricultura. He found several plants that made Floricultura’s debut a must-stop site in 2015. Westhoff At Westhoff, plant breeding is alive and well, with many things to embrace. The petunia program is vibrant and creative, and I am particularly confident that the Crazytunia program will continue to grow. Crazytunias should fly off the shelves because of their unique colors. Westhoff also brings more standard fare to the table. The Epic series of bacopas have large flowers and should be of particular interest. ‘Epic White’ is particularly nice. And the lobelia in the Hot series has been excellent. ‘Snow White’ adds a good white to the mix. The Hot series does tolerate heat better than most lobelias and now it has a reasonable number of colors. The plant that caught my interest the most this year was ‘Lilac Cascade.’ According to Westhoff, this […]

Read More
westhoff_lilac falls

April 16, 2015

The New Floricultura Stop Showcased A New Interspecific…

Floricultura is a new stop for Spring Trials that hosted Westhoff, Beekenkamp and Plug Connections. It is a welcome addition to the California tour, offering a backdrop of an impressive high-tech greenhouse with orchid production underway within a few feet of the Trial displays. Westhoff The first breeder the Greenhouse Grower team toured, Westhoff, is a relative newcomer to CAST. This German company brings its storied European history of breeding plants (it’s a more-than-100-year-old company) to the U.S. Here in the U.S., Westhoff is best known for its Crazytunia series of petunias, with its vivid and sometimes unexpected colors. It introduced eight new varieties in the series, with ‘Limy’ and ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ getting some pointed attention from attendees. The Hot series of lobelia captured a lot of attention. These lobelias are tested in Florida, Texas, California, Michigan and Colorado, and offer more toughness than we are used to seeing from this genus. The […]

Read More

April 16, 2015

Golden State Bulbs And Sakata: Allan Armitage Highlight…

Dr. Allan Armitage was excited to see both new and improved breeding, as well as have the chance to meet breeders and talk shop at Sakata Seed and Golden State Bulb. Sakata Seed At Sakata, we wandered through traditional crops like zinnias, New Guinea impatiens, calibrachoa and petunias. However, I have always been impressed with the SuperCal program, and this year’s introduction of vibrant colors of Light Yellow and Pink really caught my eye. The flowers of Light Yellow are significantly larger than other colors in the series. I believe the SuperCals are poised for major additional sales. Everybody was talking about ‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia, and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. It is surely hype-worthy. The plants I observed were large with obvious vigor, and the foliage was coppery with huge, bright, rose-red flowers. Apparently this is a plant that benefits from minimal inputs, such as […]

Read More
CAST15_Suntory_Soiree1

April 15, 2015

McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletcher Reviews New Offerin…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Fletcher recounted some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Suntory Flowers and Westhoff during California Spring Trials.

Read More
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

April 15, 2015

All-America Selections Launches New Perennial Trial

All-America Selections (AAS) in partnership with Perennial Plant Association (PPA) will launch an herbaceous perennial trial, with entries due this July. It will follow many of the basics of the recently launched AAS Vegetative Ornamental trial. Entries accepted will be herbaceous perennials propagated from seed, cutting, tissue culture or bare root.

Read More
PAC Elsner_Pelargonium 'Bermuda Pink'

April 15, 2015

Kientzler Makes First Independent Display At Spring Tri…

The Spring Trials exhibit at Windmill Nursery in Buellton is a fairly new location as of 2014, and it continues to evolve, with a number of new suppliers presenting their wares. Kientzler, Terra Nova Nurseries and PAC-Elsner presented new varieties while McConkey, Pelemix and Dramm promoted their products.

Read More
Hort Couture_Asclepias Monarch's Promise

April 15, 2015

Hort Couture Boosts Butterflies With ‘MonarchR…

The new milkweed 'Monarch's Promise' aims to improve butterflies' forage options, and it's already working. Plus, chck out the action from GroLink's 11 displaying companies.

Read More
Zucchini 'Brice' (Syngenta Vegetables)

April 14, 2015

18 New Vegetables For Easy Growing And Healthy Eating

Current breeding efforts have focused on vegetable varieties that cater to small space and urban gardening trends and offer consumers good performance with minimal efforts. As a result, new, easy care vegetable introductions packed with flavor and loaded with fruits have swept onto the market. Here are 16 of the newest vegetables already on the market or hitting the market in 2016.

Read More
Asclepias-Monarch-Promise

April 14, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Old Fashioned Plants Are New Again…

Day two of California Spring Trials was packed with breeders and all their new introductions and marketing. Allan Armitage found several varieties he felt were worth a second look.

Read More
lobularia_YOLO

April 14, 2015

Dümmen And HGTV: Allan Armitage On What Looks Promising

On his third day of California Spring Trials, Dr. Allan Armitage visited two Dümmen sites and HGTV HOME Plants. (Full disclosure: Dr. Armitage consults for HGTV HOME Plants.) Take a look at the new introductions that caught his eye during these stops.

Read More