June 16, 2008

Good Points

North Carolina State University  Trial location: North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. (Trial is part of the National Poinsettia Trial Program in cooperation with Purdue University, University of Florida and Homewood Nursery and Garden Center). Trial managers: John Dole and Ingram McCall Plant date: Aug. 3 for low vigor cultivars and Aug. 17 for all cultivars (some cultivars were planted at both times). Weather conditions for the season: Excellent weather conditions; among the best in years. No hurricanes and lots of sun.    Best In Show/Best New Variety ‘Ice Punch’ scored the highest in consumer marketing studies. It is an easy-to-grow cultivar with good axillary shoot development and uniformity. Most novel color pattern since ‘Cortez Burgundy.’    Best Old Variety ‘Prestige Maroon,’ released last year, offers uniform, sturdy growth, excellent breaking and great color.   Top Performers Rounding out the top three in consumer preferences along with ‘Prestige Maroon’ were […]

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June 16, 2008

Hanging Around

The hanging basket portion of the market continues to expand, and the trend seems to be to complex mixed arrangements of flowering and foliage plants, similar to the expansion of the market for 14-inch and larger patio containers. Mono-culture containers still remain popular, but larger pot sizes and a preference for lifestyle purchasing are demanding that responsive retailers and growers learn how to put together mixed containers and hanging baskets that are both high quality and artistic. This market can be the cornerstone of a strong independent retail program or a high profit local market if it is done right. Complex mixes of plants and larger hanging basket sizes put local producers at a definite advantage because they have less concern with shipability of the plants in the mix and don’t have the freight charges that a larger producer would have to incorporate for long-distance delivery. Growing hanging baskets can actually […]

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June 16, 2008

Poinsettia Prowess

However, when it comes to post-greenhouse durability, stem strength and shelf life for the consumer, Prestige has built a reputation that has made it the No. 1 selling poinsettia variety in the world. That was until now. New for 2007, ‘Prestige Early Red’ is being offered by the Paul Ecke Ranch to further extend the benefits of the Prestige genetics into the grower and retailer market. Like the original, ‘Prestige Early Red’ features strong stems and plant habit that has virtually eliminated problems with stem breakage due to transport and handling. ‘Prestige Early Red’ also offers the characteristic dark green leaves and deep red bracts preferred by consumers. Not only is this variety strong, it is beautiful. The contrast between red bracts and yellow cyathia clusters is outstanding. ‘Prestige Early Red’ flowers 10 to 14 days earlier than Prestige does, making it an ideal choice for the early season market. […]

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June 16, 2008

Basket-Worthy Beauties

Ball FloraPlant Free-flowering and early-blooming under short days, Cabaret calibrachoa has a higher pH tolerance, so the foliage stays dark green longer. In addition to ‘Cabaret Peach,’ also new for 2008 are ‘Yellow Glow’ and ‘Purple Glow.’ They grow 6 to 10 inches tall with a spread of 8 to 12 inches and require full sun. Ball FloraPlant ‘Abunda Colossal Sky Blue’ joins the Abunda series for 2008. This new variety produces extremely large flowers for high impact. The big, beautiful blooms are set off by the dark green foliage. They reach a height of 8 to 12 inches and spread 8 to 12 inches in full sun.  Ball Horticultural Co. ‘Happy Hour Rose’ morning glory features abundant, pretty rose-red flowers, each with a white throat, over variegated foliage. Plants climb 6 to 9 feet and flowering starts when the vine reaches 3 feet. Ball Horticultural Co. ‘Titan Pure White’ […]

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June 16, 2008

The Classic City Awards for Perennials — The Best of 2006

Our yearly accounting of the great stuff, not merely the very good, takes us to perennials this month. Plants that held the attention of passers-by and caught our eyes throughout the season, or when they were truly spectacular, made this list. We are in Zone 7 (7b) with lots of sun, heat and humidity. Go buy, grow and sell these fine plants. All are available through your plant distributor or propagator. Aquilegia ‘Corbett’ Our little doll of the columbines! Another compact version of our native Canadian columbine, ‘Corbett’ can and will stand proudly next to our other proven variety, ‘Little Lanterns,’ but with pale yellow flowers instead of the typical red/yellow bicolor. It is named for the town in Maryland where it was originally found. Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ A healthy, green circular mound gives way to a purple beauty in the early fall. Dubbed ‘October Skies’ and introduced by North […]

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June 16, 2008

Variety Shorts

    Functional Beauty Athens Select recently announced several new varieties to its heat- and humidity-tolerant collection of plants for 2006-2007, including setcreasea ‘Blue Sue’ and hibiscus ‘Panama Red’ and ‘Panama Bronze.’ ‘Blue Sue’ offers functionality and beauty in one plant. Its leaves have a distinctive blue tinge throughout and a handsome purple margin. Plants are topped with pink flowers held in the leaf margins. This drought-tolerant plant is equally comfortable in full sun or dappled afternoon shade. Hibiscus ‘Panama Red’ PPAF and ‘Panama Bronze’ grow to a hardy 4 feet tall and are equally wide. Foliage for both varieties is deeply cut and beautiful, with the color remaining stable through even the hottest days. The pair love full sun and thrive in hot and humid conditions. A bright-red flower may even spring forth now and again. Use these ornamental hibiscus as accent plants in the garden or in containers. For […]

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June 16, 2008

Variety Shorts

Abounding Blooms New additions to American Takii’s lineup for 2007/2008 include petunia ‘Opera Supreme,’ pansy ‘Nature Carmine Shades With Blotch’ and flower kale ‘Pink Kamome.’ Petunia ‘Opera Supreme’ has a low, trailing habit and spreads to a width of 4 feet. White is extremely floriferous, producing massive quantities of flowers from the tips of the trailing branches to the center of the plant. Pansy ‘Nature Carmine Shades With Blotch’ is one of two new colors being added to the Nature series. Being a cross between pansy and viola imparts the best characteristics of both–wide color range and flower size and very high tolerance of both heat and cold, as well as profuse flower quantities. Flower kale ‘Pink Kamome’ is a unique color addition to the existing fringe-leaved Kamome series made up of White and Red. It expands the color assortment for cool weather programs, as well as retail packages of […]

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June 16, 2008

Are “Weird” Plants Part Of the Future?

Life used to be less complicated a few decades ago, didn’t it? Remember those prehistoric times when the supposed time-saving technologies of Internet, e-mail, Blackberries and digital cameras were not as commonplace as smog? And in the landscape and garden center arenas, have you not watched the lava flow of vegetative annuals wash over the simple days of traditional bedding plants? The lava flow was necessary. We needed more than one more marigold, we needed a lobelia that could live in temperatures higher than 65ËšF, and yes, we needed the beauty of plants like calibrachoa and argyranthemum, even though we still can’t pronounce them. Everyone is richer for the new material that fills the containers, baskets and parks in North America. But, geez Louise, are we scaring people with some of the more unusual material we are putting out there? Some might even call them weird. Remembering clearly that bacopa […]

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June 13, 2008

Shibata’s Memoirs

Yoshimi Shibata’s memoirs are now in print. Across Two Worlds, Memoirs of a Nisei Flower Grower traces a lifetime of challenges faced by a man who not only triumphed over personal adversity, including forced internment during WWII, but rose to become an international leader in the California floriculture industry. Founder and former president of the Wholesale Florist & Florist Suppliers of America, Shibata helped launch its first trade show and innovated many standard practices employed by the floral industry today. He also won a landmark victory in propagation rights that went all the way to the Supreme Court and resulted in a revolutionary new business model for proprietary plant varieties. He and his immediate family own and operate the Mt. Eden Floral Company, Mountain View, Calif., (www.mteden.com), which distributes floral products through various channels nationally and internationally. His other businesses include the Mt. Eden Nursery in Hayward, Calif., and the […]

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June 13, 2008

Bulking Up The Greenery

The situation: The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), www.usgbc.org, is a community of leaders working to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated. The Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System is the national benchmark for high performance green buildings. Each year, the USGBC holds the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, where industry professionals gather to learn about the leading edge of the building and construction industry, including the latest updates and expansions of LEED. At Greenbuild 2006, USGBC representatives met with Initial Tropical Plants, www.initialplants.com, a leader in interior plantscaping for businesses, and asked the company to be a sponsor of their new Washington, D.C., headquarters.  The Challenge The USGBC stands for healthy, vibrant and green work environments, but its new Washington headquarters, while sleek and beautiful, did not feature any greenery. Valerie Goldbeck, branch vice president for Initial Tropical Plants in Washington, D.C., and design […]

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June 13, 2008

Moving Beyond Blue Carnations

It was only a matter of time before flowers became the next frontier for biotechnology, and now it has happened. In a joint venture between German-based Selecta Klemm and U.S.-based Mendel Biotechnology Inc., transgenic ornamental plants are only a few years away. The new entity, Ornamental Bioscience (www.Ornamental-Bioscience.com), combines Mendel’s technological expertise and patent estate in drought, cold and freeze tolerance, disease resistance and flower stability traits, with Selecta’s experience in plant transformation technology, its extensive variety patent estate and experience in marketing ornamentals worldwide. Christian Klemm, CEO of Ornamental Bioscience, says it is time for the ornamental market to catch up to other areas of agriculture that have already made strides–and profits–in transgenic crop production and marketing. “We envision the ornamental market will undergo substantial development in the coming decade,” Klemm says. “The global market for ornamentals has an annual retail value of several billion dollars. Ornamental Bioscience will […]

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June 13, 2008

Foliage Forecast 2007

No one can predict the future. So many variables can contribute to the ups and downs of any industry. But where the foliage industry will stand in 2007 might be best determined by looking at where 2006 has taken it. With no major hurricanes last year and fuel costs finally beginning to level out, some major changes may be on the horizon.  Buyer Dynamics Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscapers Association (FNGLA) Executive Vice President Ben Bolusky explains that a lot of the biggest challenges the foliage industry faced last year are still evolving, one of them being buyer dynamics. “In dealing with the growers, FNGLA sees buyer channels narrowing,” he says. “The demand for tropicals and foliage is not shrinking, yet the base of buyers appears to be. It is challenging for foliage growers to identify and find a diversity of buyers in the wholesale marketplace.” Bolusky also notes that the […]

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June 13, 2008

Plants For Even Hotter Weather

When up against wildfires, drought and water restrictions, bedding plants would seem to be part of a losing battle. In dry and fire-prone areas of the country, however, gardeners can fight back–with succulents and cacti. New options for these parts of the country are being researched, looking for varieties that are both functional and beautiful. Cactus varieties have been evaluated on criteria including blooming, a minimal number of spines and day blooming by John Erwin of the University of Minnesota. Experiments began with cooling, photoperiod and total light treatments and 58 of the 65 varieties tested went into flower. Now follow-up work is being done on 10 to 15 of those to see which ones are best for commercial production. But are cacti cold hardy? The ones Erwin is researching native to the cold mountaintops of Argentina are cold hardy, but research is looking at how cold hardy. And while in […]

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June 13, 2008

Connecting People & Plants

This spring, garden celebrity P. Allen Smith’s new garden home retreat will be the epicenter of all his media platforms engaging consumers. In addition to being a showcase for the latest and greatest in gardening, activities at the retreat will appeal to interests ranging from home building and home décor to cooking, outdoor living and entertaining. Animal lovers will connect with the dogs, chickens, sheep and horses on the working farm. The retreat also ties in with the green movement, with the energy-efficient home being built with sustainable materials and the grounds irrigated with recycled water and maintained as organically as possible. “The retreat is America’s test kitchen for outdoor living,” Smith says. “Not only will we be trialing new plant varieties, but other products that are part of the outdoor lifestyle. What the consumer really needs is a way to pull it all together, feel good about it and […]

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June 13, 2008

New Varieties

 •  Agri-Starts Inc. Musa ‘Little Prince’ is an exciting new musa introduction. This dwarf variety stands at a stout 2 to 2.5 feet full grown. It is the perfect accent to a tropical garden or container. It requires ample moisture, fertile soil and part to full sun. Alocasia lauterbaachiana is great for something different in a mixed container centerpiece. This upright alocasia has slender serrated leaves that are a deep green with a burgundy underside. It grows best in filtered light and does not require much water. Six-inch pots can be finished in 12 to 15 weeks. ‘Frosted Citrosa’ is a sport of citrosa with a striking white variegation pattern on the edges of each leaf. The plant requires no growth regulators and grows more compact and tolerates warmer temperatures than the original, all while still emitting its trademark fragrance. For more information, contact Agri-Starts Inc., Apopka, Fla., 407-889-8055 or […]

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June 13, 2008

Name That Conifer

A few weeks before Christmas, I visited a local garden center, looking for a little something to spruce up my desk here at the office. Something different. While I drifted in a sea of red, white and pink poinsettias, I came across a small assortment of potted plants–cyclamen, African violets and a few bromeliads. In two long rows of benches, there was only one product gussied up in holiday decor. It was a line of ferns decorated with bunches of cranberries and a few pine cones, as well as snowmen and glittery stars on picks tucked in amongst the green. I immediately gravitated towards the collection and snatched one up. Am I a fern person? Not particularly, but this one is growing on me. There was also a mini-Christmas-tree-looking woody ornamental in a 4-inch pot. I bought it, although I have no idea what it is. In fact, I know more […]

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June 13, 2008

Beyond Baskets

Proven Winners has published a beautiful, 40-page booklet that helps growers capitalize on containers. While past books have been produced to inspire and educate gardeners and retail garden centers, “The Container Design Book” was produced specifically for growers. “The popularity and versatility of container gardening is a trend that promises to pay big dividends for growers and retailers in 2007,” the book’s introduction states. “And Proven Winners is helping to set that trend by providing the plants and design savvy to inspire gardeners–and the resources to make it easier for growers to capitalize on containers.” The guide illustrates how to create more than 90 professionally designed, portable beauties and contains growing tips for containers in general, as well as many specific varieties. A “Hanging Basket Compatibility” chart is a table that cross references varieties with each other in combination baskets. About 30 varieties are recommended for monoculture baskets. Attractive sample combinations […]

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June 13, 2008

Trialing & Styling

In response to both grower and retailer demand, the California Pack Trials will be earlier this year, from March 29 to April 6, before the busy spring season gets too far under way. Bus loads of growers travel with their big box buyers to discuss next spring’s program just as this spring begins. For one week, California’s U.S. Highway 101 will become the runway for the launch of new annuals and perennials. From Gilroy in the north and then south to the Los Angeles/Ventura area, the journey continues down I-5 to Encinitas. In addition to the flower breeders that are already based in California, others will come from as far as Japan, Israel, Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom to showcase their new offerings. Now that Fischer is owned by Syngenta and is in charge of its genetics on the seed and vegetative side, the company is rebranded as Syngenta […]

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June 12, 2008

Selling Sustainability

One of the main objectives of the California Pack Trials is to help growers and retailers succeed with plants in the marketplace and capitalize on consumer trends. Many Pack Trials hosts this year demonstrated they are in tune with the desire to offer more sustainable products and strategies. We saw a wide range of biodegradable pots and environmentally responsible packaging. Some of the breeders also emphasized how variety selection fits in with conserving energy, growing more plants in less space and reducing the need for chemical inputs. The best part is all of this is being presented as a choice for growers and retailers who would like to differentiate themselves with a green message. Never before has the supply chain been more prepared to facilitate this with a wide range of offerings.

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June 12, 2008

A Place For Woody Plants

The history of greenhouse production mirrors the economy and lifestyle of the American population. When the first protected structures were used in the New World, they were dug, not built. Cold frames became the accepted way to provide a head start on the slow spring for seedlings and roots. When the first greenhouses were constructed, they were built to keep the winter out so vegetables could be produced for the market. Tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach and lettuce were major greenhouse crops in the 1800s and early 1900s. As the economy improved, in the late ’40s and ’50s, cut flowers vied for space with the tomatoes, and chrysanthemums, carnations and roses became the greenhouse crops of choice. As peace time prosperity settled onto the land, florists popped up, and that market became stronger everywhere. As transportation improved, cut flowers and vegetables moved across the country. However, the vast improvement in global transportation […]

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