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. On one of the sunniest days of June, CEO Anna Ball was on hand with 30 perennial suppliers to greet more than 500 visitors to West Chicago to look at new and exciting offerings in the perennial world.

Mike Klopmeyer, General Manager of Darwin Perennials, said, “It is the peak time to look at the portfolio of perennials in our Zone 5 hardiness zone. You have the opportunity to talk perennials all day with the major young plant suppliers, breeders, and everyone in the supply chain in one central location here in the Midwest. Everyone here is focused on perennials.”

The Trial Gardens Have a New Look

The Gardens at Ball had an extra vibrant glow. The staff has spent the last several months upgrading the perennial beds, and New Trials Coordinator Sarah Swofford was tasked with redesigning the trial area. The goal was to have the trial site in top shape for this event, and the changes were obvious.

Pulling from her experience in retail, Swofford wanted to create that wow factor from a well-merchandised retail display. She remembered how customers could never pass beautiful, colorful product on an end cap without making a purchase. She focused first on the front perennial beds, and varieties with staying power, like the Coreopsis UpTick series, and Salvia ‘Lyrical Blues,’ to create a vivid, long-lasting look. Inspired by the effects of color, we worked through the perennial area, including a bed with a pollinator theme, and finally reaching the shade area. The astilbe bed, with its hot hues in the shade, was eye-catching. Swofford’s first major endeavor here was a great success.

Darwin Details Scheduling Perennials

Guest speakers were Bob Blew from Centerton Nursery, who presented ‘Why We Grow What We Grow,’ and Dr. Allan Armitage promoting his new books, ‘Of Naked Ladies and Forget-Me-Nots’ and ‘It’s Not Just About the Hat.’

As we all look to build and extend our sales, Greg Soles from Darwin Perennials was on topic with his presentation ‘The Color Bridge is Under Construction.’ Detailing a blueprint for success, he discussed the scheduling of perennials, and opportunities for extending the sales season by using the power of new genetics. Ninety percent of Darwin Perennials’ new products do not require vernalization. The company currently has 38 of its newer introductions in finishing trials to create a crop scheduling tool to assist customers in accomplishing those goals.

Perennials Stole the Show

The stars of this event though, were the new perennials. A few of the favorites, each with bold color, extended bloom time and improved habit.

Salvia nemorosa ‘Rose Marvel’ has the largest flowers of any pink salvia on the market. It has stunning, high-impact color and blooms through spring and summer. It is hardy in Zones 4a to 9b.

Dianthus ‘Mountain Frost Pink PomPom’ has a tidy habit with bright, double-pink continual blooms from spring through fall. It’s tolerant of rainy and wet conditions, and with hardiness in Zones 5a to 9b, it promises to be virtually maintenance free in the garden.

The additional rich colors of ‘Granada Gold’ and ‘Sangrita’ in the Echinacea Sombrero Series is a win. Sturdy and compact, this series ships well and has great retail appeal. It has high-impact color that will hold up in full sun, and is still growing in popularity in the Midwest. It should be great for summer sales.

Star Roses & Plants was also on hand with three new regional Knock Out Rose varieties: White, Coral, and Peachy. It also showed off the new Hydrangea ‘Cherry Explosion,’ a stunning cherry-pink macrophylla-type with lacecap blooms that is extremely hardy to Zone 4.

If you missed out, be sure to mark your calendar for June 20, 2018, as plans are already underway for next year’s event.

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