Kelly Norris: Three Variety Trends That Caught My Eye This Spring

Amsonia Short Stop from Intrinsic Perennials
Amsonia ‘Short Stop,’ from Intrinsic Perennials, is a promising amsonia with purplish-black stems that is half the size of the standard A. tabernaemontana.

As Director of Horticulture at a young, entrepreneurially charged botanical garden, I’m passionate about exposing public garden users to new plants. Without fail, spring is an intense season for horticulture, visitation, and programming. But with each spring comes a new opportunity for planting and curating the latest varieties and underappreciated gems for our collections and the visiting public. On the move with trowel in hand, I’ve made note of a series of recurring thoughts on the subject of new varieties. Here’s one slice of the season that was.

First Impressions

Mother always said they mattered. Here are a few new or recent introductions that did more than show up for the first date. (Keep in mind, nobody’s getting married here, but I’m smitten enough for a follow-up text.)

Phlox ‘Opening Act Blush’ from Walters Gardens and Proven Winners isn’t even planted, and I’m already in love with the possibilities. Truthfully, I’m in love with the hordes of new, shorter, disease-resistant phloxes coming onto the market that redeem and reinvigorate the possibilities in this truly American genus. Smooth leaves, abundant flowers, and compact habits — what’s not to love?

For gardeners and growers alike, amsonia have perennial appeal, probably because they offer silvery blue flowers in season when the whole presentation just feels right. Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennials plans to further capitalize on the potential of amsonia with two recent releases, including ‘Short Stop,’ which measures up to only half the size of standard A. tabernaemontana with purplish-black stems. In Intrinsic’s distinctive purple pots, stems flushing with buds, the effect of ‘Short Stop’ at retail was palpably exciting.

In the annual realm, Gomphrena ‘Cosmic Flare’ from Plants Nouveau looks to light up our world this summer. I’m still a sucker for what Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ does in the garden, even if the plant Illuminati view it as a bit cliché. Introduce chartreuse foliage, however, and you’re ready for hardball with any holdouts. I can’t imagine consumers won’t crave these electric leaves.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden Festival
The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden hosts a four-day, pop-up retail festival, featuring nearly 500 different kinds of plants.

Market Penetration — Not As Deep As We Think

Each Mother’s Day, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden hosts a pop-up retail festival, featuring nearly 500 different kinds of plants and educational opportunities for all ages. While the event is young, it generates around $100,000 of gross revenue for our budding institution, and gets about 2,500 people through our doors in high spring.

As I interacted with customers at the festival, I couldn’t help but think of how long it takes for most varieties to reach any kind of mainstream awareness. The hard reality is that our plants, in theory, have (need) longer lifespans than we often realize. Qualitatively, I don’t seem to associate any particular level of consumer awareness with demographics. Even astute gardeners with higher disposable incomes (or at least a willingness to spend more on plants) might not recognize a variety that’s been on the market for nearly five years.

We take for granted that even among our most inveterate patrons, what we do doesn’t matter as much as we think it should. To put it another way, in marketing parlance, even the people who love us the most, don’t care most of the time. That’s the reality of an information-inundated, fast-paced world, and it should make us thoroughly consider what we bring to market and why we’re doing it. It isn’t easy to get people’s attention, let alone maintain it. Gamble wisely.

Just Ship It

I’ve long prescribed to the Seth Godin-proffered wisdom of “shipping” as a metaphor for productivity and success in business. To distill it into a few words — if it doesn’t ship, it doesn’t matter. The idea might be genius, the process might consider every detail, the product might be your best yet, but if you don’t put it in a proverbial box and ship it to the end user, it doesn’t matter. Godin says avoid resistance at all cost and just ship.

The shipping analogy made a lot of sense to me as a teenage entrepreneur running a mail-order business. If a customer placed an order, they had a reasonable expectation that they would receive what they had ordered. If what they ordered didn’t ship in its entirety, we had no reason to think they should be satisfied with the experience, no matter how kind or gentle we were in our communications, how easy the ordering process was, or how quickly we responded to their questions. Even if only one product on their order failed to ship, we had no reason to expect that the quality of everything that did ship would override the disappointment of the thing that didn’t. If it didn’t ship, it didn’t matter. Nobody for a minute would expect anything different in food or hospitality services. Why should horticulture be an exception?

What does this mean for a business that hangs its hat on innovation and new product development? Does it mean we’ll always hit the mark? Of course not. The struggles of a living inventory make for painful, bitter realities in comparison to manufactured goods. Creating a value-added experience for consumers starts with a supply chain that produces value in the first place.

Understand my empathy for our business, particularly for anyone growing product in open fields. But we can do better. We can manage the supply chain differently, more cost effectively, and with greater return on consumer experience. Some companies do just this. Others miss the mark. Here capitalism wins — the best plants don’t necessarily make it to market the fastest or most efficiently. The faster, more efficient systems make it to market with the plants they produce — better, best, or otherwise.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begonia Varieties

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More

April 18, 2017

Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choice

With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.

Read More
Danziger New Hires

April 16, 2017

Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business Growth

As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.

Read More
Latest Stories
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begon…

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More

April 18, 2017

Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choic…

With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.

Read More
Danziger New Hires

April 16, 2017

Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business G…

As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.

Read More
Florida Flower Trials

April 12, 2017

Looking for Info on New Varieties for Hot Climates? Che…

The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s Florida Flower Trials, which are focused on new and improved varieties able to thrive in the extremes of Florida’s climate, are a great opportunity to connect with national breeders.

Read More
Lupinus Staircase Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

April 11, 2017

Begonias, Celosias Among Dr. Allan Armitage’s Favorites…

Check out some of Allan’s top picks from his final day at CAST 2017, which included visits to Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova.

Read More
Rex Begonia container mix at Green Fuse Botanicals

April 11, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals’ Rex Begonias and First Looks; Fl…

Here are the highlights from Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova on the last day of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

Hort Couture Wows With Farm to Table; Florist Holland R…

On the last day for GroLink and the second to last for the Greenhouse Grower team, the wealth of genetics, marketing programs, and announcements were pleasing to our eyes, ears, and hearts.

Read More

April 7, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Five: Notable New Plant Va…

See some of the new varieties for 2018 displayed at Ball Horticultural and GroLink Plant Company on day five of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

PanAmerican Promotes Pentas, Plug-and-Play, and Veggies…

On Day 5 of the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team hit the Southern California Trials and saw a multitude of new introductions and exciting programs.

Read More

April 7, 2017

CAST 2017: Musings of a California Spring Trials Rookie…

The number of opportunities presented to me are enough to make me rethink my location, but I still have a lot of big decisions to make for the future.

Read More

April 6, 2017

Dr. Allan Armitage’s Top Picks From Ball and GroL…

Here are Dr. Allan Armitage’s five variety picks, plus one display, from on Day 5 of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 6, 2017

Dümmen Orange Provides Retail Concepts; Terra Nova Offe…

Greenhouse Grower hit the Central Coast of California on our Day 4 of California Spring Trials, and what we saw was inspiring and exciting.

Read More

April 5, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Four: New Plant Intros fro…

The Greenhouse Grower team saw loads of memorable plants during day four, as it visited Dümmen Orange, Chisan Orchids, and Windmill Nursery. Dümmen had several notable introductions, including Wild Romance New Guinea impatiens in Blush Pink and White, which inspired the theme of its displays. One of the standout displays was its perennial combos with some new leucanthemum additions. Chisan Orchids in Los Alamos, CA, with Israeli breeders Hishtil, Jaldety, and Cohen Propagators, was a new stop on the route this year. Hishtil has a new gaura series out that includes a compact, low-growing variety, ‘Baby,’ with a mass of pink blooms. Cohen displayed Verbena ‘Mickey Red Rose,’ a unique bi-color that looks like a mixed combo, and Jaldety featured an interesting Cyperus prolifera. Windmill Nursery was the last stop of the day, with breeders Terra Nova Nurseries, Kientzler, J. Berry Nursery, and KiwiFlora. Terra Nova had several new heuchera for show, including ‘Onyx,’ which is a mounding, […]

Read More

April 5, 2017

CAST 2017: Musings of a California Spring Trials Rookie…

Set-aside all the varieties - I have come to the realization that being a grower is where I belong.

Read More

April 5, 2017

Dr. A’s Day Four Top Varieties for CAST 2017

Check out Dr. Allan Armitage's top five picks from visits to Dummen Orange, Chisan Orchids, and Windmill Nursery during day four of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 4, 2017

Dr. A’s Day Three Picks for CAST 2017

Take a look at Dr. Allan Armitage’s top five favorites from the American Takii, Sakata, and Floricultura stops during the 2017 California Spring Trials.

Read More

April 4, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Three – New Intros f…

Check out some of the great new plant introductions for 2018 the Greenhouse Grower team encountered on day four of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 4, 2017

Takii’s New Breeding Efforts; Sakata Seed America Turns…

Day three on the trail took us to the last three stops in the north, American Takii, Sakata Seed America, and Floricultura, which showcased a number of companies.

Read More