Kickin’ Around Combos

Kickin' Around Combos

Sixteen different combinations are available in Four Star Greenhouse’s Streamliner program, but head grower Dennis Crum and his staff didn’t settle on those combos overnight. Instead, Four Star trialed more than 100 combinations before ultimately finding the 16 genera combinations that grow well together and bloom into beautiful finished products.

“There are a number of things we have to look at,” Crum says. “One is rooting time. For the third genus, we’ll pick a scaevola or an ipomoea that stays in propagation longer. But it means if the one genus stays in an extra week, another one is going wild. It’s hard to even everything out without a lot of hand labor and plant growth regulators.”

Still, despite the work that goes into producing combination baskets and planters, growers are finding there’s a market that’s becoming increasingly receptive to them. Growers have been producing combos for decades, yes, but the three-varieties-in-one-liner trend has picked up arguably more than any other industry movement.

The combo liner trend has reenergized a number of growers on a simpler level, as well. Some growers are trialing their own combinations in house to have their own, original combinations.

“We have seen more demand for premium hanging baskets,” says Roger Esbenshade, head grower at Esbenshade’s Greenhouse. “We can’t meet our current demands on them. We’ve had so many baskets in that we can hardly grow anything underneath them.”

Opportunity Abounds

Esbenshade’s Greenhouse, located in Lititz, Pa., is one of those operations that’s mixed and matched varieties in house to find out which ones works best together. Esbenshade’s sister, Linda Bomberger, conducts her own combo trials over the summer to give the business a few new options the following spring.

“Linda makes all the designs and color coordinates items so it doesn’t just end up being random,” Esbenshade says. “She really has an eye for what looks good together. Sometimes, I don’t think things will work out, but in the end she can prove certain genera work well together.”

Unlike many combo liner programs, which Esbenshade says are designed in part so varieties react similarly to plant growth regulators, his operation will try combining certain genera from which other growers might stray.

“We’ll put a geranium and a calibrachoa together, but it’s not an easy thing to grow,” Esbenshade says. “One should have a high pH, the other should have a low pH. The growth regulator is a little challenging because you have something that can be very challenging and something that can tolerate a lot more.”

But if growers are willing to trial those harder-to-grow-together varieties, they just might find a golden nugget of a combo.

Combo Liner Concerns

If three different genera are too difficult to produce, growers may find equal success with three varieties of the same genus.

“One thing we’ve had great success with is three calibrachoa,” says Jim Monroe, CEO of Hort Couture. “It can be challenging when you’re doing multiple genera in those plugs, like a verbena, petunia and a bacopa. You have three different rooting times, three different cutting sizes.”

To Monroe, the combo liner concept is a great one. Still, he wonders if growers know everything they need to know about them–and if the industry rushed into the idea too fast.

“The concept is great for the big box grower and their mass production,” Monroe says. “But I’m still not totally sold on the mixed liner thing. I see shortcomings with it. One thing we’ve toyed with is maybe combos ought to be grown in 4-inch pots that go to the grower to finish. That way, there’s more space between the plants and the arrangement is more sophisticated.

“Still, I think this mixed liner thing will stick around.”

More Perspective

The bottom line with combos, Crum says, is growers should produce them in a manner that makes them feel most comfortable.
“I really think it comes down to whatever works best for that individual,” Crum says. “There are a lot of people who want to create their own combos, or they just have a lot more confidence doing these from 84s or 100s–or whatever cell sizes.”

Since Crum began working at Four Star in 1992, Proven Winners combinations have always been a part of production. Lately, Four Star has seen growth in its monocrop containers, of which 85 to 90 percent are combos.

“Some combos were up this year,” Crum says. “It really varied on the container size and look. Probably one-third of our combos are totally new or adjusted to take into account new varieties.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selections Offers Improved Navigation

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant Breeding

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
Latest Stories
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
prince-tut-cyperus-grass-feature

November 28, 2016

Growing Tips For ‘Prince Tut’ Cyperus Grass

'Prince Tut’ from Proven Winners’ Graceful Grasses collection is versatile, working well in all container sizes with its columnar habit and dense canopy and filling out well in the landscape.

Read More
Sea breeze combo

November 26, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
Begonia at Oklahoma State University field trials

November 26, 2016

2016 Oklahoma State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City.

Read More
Petunia 'Tidal Wave Cherry'

November 25, 2016

2016 North Dakota State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

Read More
Scaevola 'Scala Bicolor Blue'

November 24, 2016

2016 North Carolina State University Field Trials Resul…

Check out the 2016 field trial results at North Carolina State University/J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.

Read More
2016 Missouri Botanical Garden Flower Trials

November 23, 2016

2016 Missouri Botanical Garden Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO.

Read More
Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse first caught the poinsettia bug in 1996, but the operation didn’t begin trialing the plant until 2004

November 21, 2016

Poinsettia Trials Across The Eastern U.S. To Take Place…

Poinsettia growers interested in keeping up with the latest variety and production trends have the chance to attend university open houses in New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Ohio.

Read More
Coleus 'Main Street River Walk'

November 21, 2016

2016 Michigan State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.

Read More
Field trials at Lucas Greenhouses

November 20, 2016

2016 Lucas Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 Field Trials results for Lucas Greenhouses in Monroeville, NJ.

Read More
Catharanthus 'Soiree Kawaii Coral'

November 19, 2016

Kansas State University 2016 Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trial results for Kansas State University in Lawrence, KS.

Read More
2016 Massachusetts Horticultural Society field trials

November 18, 2016

2016 Massachusetts Horticultural Society Field Trials R…

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, MA.

Read More
verbena-endurascape

November 18, 2016

All-America Selections Announces Its 2017 Slate Of Vari…

Brokers, growers, mail order, and seed packet companies can purchase these varieties immediately. Retailers and consumers will find AAS Winners for sale for the 2017 gardening season as supply becomes available throughout the chain of distribution.

Read More
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac'

November 17, 2016

2016 Metrolina Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]