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...
Terra Nova Shipping Box

July 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries, Dümmen Orange to Partner on Unrooted Cuttings Production

Terra Nova Nurseries has contracted with Dümmen Orange to produce unrooted cuttings (URCs) from Terra Nova private stock located at Dümmen Orange’s Central America facilities. The URCs will fulfill orders in North America and Europe.

Read More

July 20, 2017

New Perennials, Trial Gardens, and Merchandising Were Highlights of Darwin Perennials Day 2017

Darwin Perennials Day has steadily become one of the must-attend perennial events of the summer. This year, even the weather cooperated.

Read More
2018 Ball Seed Catalog

July 17, 2017

Ball Seed’s 2018 New Varieties Catalog Now Available

The expanded guide includes breakthrough breeding from Ball in annuals, perennials, vegetables, potted plants, and more.

Read More
Latest Stories
Terra Nova Shipping Box

July 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries, Dümmen Orange to Partner on Unroo…

Terra Nova Nurseries has contracted with Dümmen Orange to produce unrooted cuttings (URCs) from Terra Nova private stock located at Dümmen Orange’s Central America facilities. The URCs will fulfill orders in North America and Europe.

Read More

July 20, 2017

New Perennials, Trial Gardens, and Merchandising Were H…

Darwin Perennials Day has steadily become one of the must-attend perennial events of the summer. This year, even the weather cooperated.

Read More
2018 Ball Seed Catalog

July 17, 2017

Ball Seed’s 2018 New Varieties Catalog Now Available

The expanded guide includes breakthrough breeding from Ball in annuals, perennials, vegetables, potted plants, and more.

Read More
Pleasant View Open House

July 16, 2017

Pleasant View Gardens, D.S. Cole Growers Hosting Open H…

The event gives horticulture industry professionals the chance to check out nearly 80 new introductions from Proven Winners, as well as Pleasant View’s new Savor Edibles & Fragrants line.

Read More
All American Selections

July 12, 2017

All-America Selections Celebrates Milestone Anniversary…

Coinciding with its 85th anniversary celebration, AAS is hosting an open house at its new offices, and has also released its annual report.

Read More

July 8, 2017

Plant Patent Law: Protecting the Variety Pipeline

Breeders call for better cooperation in protecting intellectual property while considering how stricter laws and expensive patents could impact the future of innovation.

Read More
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Holy Moly!’ (Proven Winners)

July 8, 2017

Are Utility Patents Tying Up Innovation With Litigation…

The opportunities for innovation in plant breeding could be greatly advanced by creating an industry-led patent licensing platform.

Read More

July 8, 2017

Fleuroselect and CIOPORA Offer Organizational Leadershi…

Learn why breeders feel these organizations should be emulated in an industry-led initiative to protect plant breeding efforts.

Read More
Thalictrum Nimbus White (Terra Nova Nurseries)

June 30, 2017

Kelly Norris Dishes on New Plants, Going to Seed, and B…

From woody perennials to genetically modified petunias, Kelly Norris gives his take on what turned out to be a busy spring.

Read More
Jim Devereux, Green Fuse Botanicals

June 24, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals New Vice President is Focused on …

Jim Devereux, who will oversee production, sales, and marketing for Green Fuse, says he hopes to bring genetics to the market that break from traditional production methods for finished growers.

Read More
Ushio Sakazaki feature

June 22, 2017

Japanese Breeder Ushio Sakazaki Wins Medal of Excellenc…

From Supertunias to Superbells, this innovative Japanese breeder has used wild genetics to create game-changing plants that help consumers reconnect with the beauty of nature.

Read More
CallaFornia Red

June 20, 2017

Dümmen Orange Enters Calla Market With Acquisition of G…

Golden State will continue to supply the market through September 2018, at which time Dümmen Orange will assume supply and delivery of much of Golden State’s product line.

Read More
Plantpeddler Variety Day

June 14, 2017

Plantpeddler Hosting Variety Day on Aug. 4 in Cresco, I…

The free event will allow attendees to tour Plantpeddler’s trial gardens, which include more than 1,200 varieties of vegetative annuals displayed in large containers, baskets, window boxes, and beds.

Read More
Jonathan Babikow, Emerald Coast Growers

June 9, 2017

New Head Grower at Emerald Coast Growers is Excited abo…

Jonathan Babikow, Emerald Coast Growers’ new general manager/head grower for its Lancaster, PA, location, talks about his favorite perennials, the advantages of growing in Pennsylvania, and his future hopes for his career.

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Mio' (Danziger)

June 8, 2017

AmericanHort Update on Genetically Engineered Petunias

AmericanHort is actively assisting affected plant breeders, distributors, growers, and retailers as the genetically modified petunia regulatory response continues. Since the last update, there have been several changes to the list of petunias confirmed or suspected of being genetically engineered and therefore unauthorized to be imported or sold. Also, the list of recognized laboratories for petunia variety confirmation testing has expanded. Most importantly, petunia varieties on the USDA-APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) list require an APHIS Form 2000 for importation. APHIS also began requiring that any Petunia spp. Shipments, not including regulated GE varieties, must be accompanied by a list of variety names. This resulted in some inspection delays at the USDA-APHIS plant inspection station in Atlanta over the past two weeks. In response, AmericanHort has negotiated a more flexible approach with APHIS, and new guidance has just been posted for importing Petunia plants, cuttings, or seed. The new guidance allows […]

Read More
Bailey Expo

June 8, 2017

Bailey Nurseries Expo to Take Place in Late July in Min…

This year’s expo will focus on bridging the gap with Millennials and non-gardeners through creative marketing, engaging in-store displays, and heightened customer service.

Read More
Scaevola Mix from Suntory

June 6, 2017

How Was Your Spring? Let Us Know by Taking Greenhouse G…

Please take a few minutes to answer Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 Spring Recap Survey. The deadline for completing the survey is June 20.

Read More
Eason Horticultural Resources Hot New Perennials Booklet

June 6, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials B…

“Hot New Perennials for 2018” is a compilation of information shared with Eason from a broad range of perennial young plant producers, breeding companies, and breeder representatives.

Read More