June 23, 2008

Ornamental Grasses — In Search Of No Maintenance

I have long contended that people who purchase our plants don’t really care what the plants are, they only care what they do. They don’t buy red begonias because they are begonias, but because they are red–and if we are smart enough, we sell the best red begonia out there. Similarly cannas are popular because of their bold colorful look, not because they are cannas. Margarita sweet potato provides the eye catching element, hostas are popular because they work in the shade, etc., etc. One of the most significant “what they do” elements is low maintenance. It always has been important and is becoming even more so as the population ages and less time is spent in the garden. Perennials have provided many low-maintenance items and shrubs are ready to burst from the greenhouse onto the landscape if they can be properly positioned at retail. However, if one asks any […]

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June 20, 2008

The Kew Gardens Of The North

I am writing this column from Ontario, Canada, where I have taken a desk at the Niagara School of Horticulture (www.schoolofhorticulture.com) in Niagara Falls. I wanted to see a different perspective of horticulture education and so I cleverly talked the superintendent, Liz Klose, into inviting me for a sabbatical at the school during the summer of 2007. Established in 1936, the program was originally known as The Training School for Apprentice Gardeners, based on the long-standing gardener apprenticeship offered at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. The name was changed to Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture in 1959. The three-year program is intense and difficult to get into. Applicants are filtered based on academic criteria, written evaluations and live interviews. After the dust has settled, only 12 to 14 students are selected each year. However, the training these students receive is unique compared to the two- and four-year […]

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June 20, 2008

The Saga Of Osteos

We have all seen them in the last eight years or so, the steady, lava-like stream of new plants, some spectacularly good, some much less so. The daisy family has been well and truly represented in the new plant movement, including gazanias, gerberas, arctotis, brachyscome and the bazillions of cape daisies, particularly argyranthemum and osteospermum. It is the latter plant whose rise I have watched with dismay. The dismay is well documented in my lectures and writing. I have seen new cultivar after new cultivar introduced through pack trials and promotions and watched as their spring flowers stopped appearing as soon as temperatures rose above 70ºF. As I trialed these cultivars (literally hundreds of them) over many years, I watched the plants morph into shrublets by June 15, all leaves, no flowers. Year after year after year. Yes, there has been a slow and steady improvement, but not enough to give […]

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June 20, 2008

The Right Plant At The Right Time

In the hotbed of bedding plant producers of Cheshire, Conn., the staff and employees of N. Casertano Greenhouses and Farms keep their eyes fixed on the big picture of the market. The goals of the company constantly keep the home gardener in mind. That idea affects everything, including how the greenhouse helps its retailers, its stance on marketing and the products its offers. Reaching through to the end consumer is wrapped up in everything the company does and believes in. “We no longer exist in the bubble of wholesale producer,” says John Casertano, vice president and general manager of Casertano Greenhouses. “We’re much more keenly aware what’s required to be on retail shelves and make our customers more successful.” A Plant For Each Season To give extra guidance to home centers and small regional chains selling their plants, Casertano Greenhouses breaks down its product mix into five mini-season umbrellas: early spring […]

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June 20, 2008

Going Holistic

For the past year and a half, Syngenta has been making headlines by aggressively expanding its footprint in ornamentals. From 2000 until last year, Syngenta consisted of Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. and Syngenta Professional Products, focusing on turf and ornamentals in Greensboro, N.C., and S&G Flowers, a breeder and distributor in Lisle, Ill. In 2006, Syngenta purchased Fafard, a leading growing media producer. This year’s big acquisition was Fischer, the largest breeder producer in geraniums along with other key staple crops, including poinsettias and New Guinea impatiens. While S&G has been strong in seed and was building its vegetative lines, German-based Fischer was already one of the largest flower cuttings producers in the world. In September, Syngenta announced Fischer USA in Boulder, Colo., will manage Syngenta’s entire portfolio of flower genetics from seed and cuttings and S&G Flowers will focus on being a full-service broker/distributor. “We want to open the distribution […]

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June 20, 2008

Variety Shorts

Liners For Landscape Ball Ornamentals, a new division of Ball Horticultural Co. supplying the nursery industry with unique trees, perennials and shrubs selected for the landscape, announces its product offering. The division is starting with a focused line-up of new varieties available from Ball’s dedicated propagation network. Products include: – Abelia ‘Lavender Mist’–Features colorful blooms, bred by the University of Georgia. – Abelia ‘Plum Surprise’–Colorful foliage, bred by the University of Georgia. – Abelia ‘Raspberry Profusion’–Brightly colored flowers, bred by the University of Georgia. – Agonis flexuosa ‘After Dark’–Dark, almost black foliage. – Agonis flexuosa ‘Burgundy’–Burgundy foliage. – Campsis tagliabuana ‘Kudian’–Grafted onto standards for patio containers and dramatic landscape applications. – Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’–Grafted for a fast finish and quick sales. – Hibiscus rosa-sinensis–Bold, exciting flower colors for patio planters. – Lagerstroemia indica ‘Whit II’–Grafted onto standards for patios and landscapes. – Phormium–A unique line of colorful foliage that finishes […]

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June 20, 2008

Variety Shorts

Showy Roses The 2007 Easy Elegance Rose Collection features several new varieties, including ‘Pink Pearls,’ ‘Snowdrift’ and ‘Sweet Fragrance.’ ‘Pink Pearls’ looks as though it’s strewn with multitudes of little, pink pearls. Frilly petals open wide, revealing a white eye and golden stamens. Sturdy and low growing with a tight, compact habit, the plant is attractive in the front of mixed borders or in decorative pots. Disease resistant, it is accepting of less-than-perfect growing conditions. ‘Snowdrift’s’ habit is upright and uniform with blooms covering the plant all the way to the ground. Gorgeous, full, cup-shaped blossoms are creamy white with just a hint of apricot in the center as they open. ‘Snowdrift’ is reminiscent of English roses. Each cluster of blossoms retains its pure color before dropping cleanly. This hardy, disease-resistant beauty is at home in any border and also makes a graceful hedge. ‘Sweet Fragrance’s’ hybrid tea-shaped buds in […]

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June 19, 2008

The Issue of Nativars

Just a few columns ago, I suggested we all need to seriously consider the issue of native plants. I said we should be telling people many of the plants we already grow are American natives, or at least make a Native Plant heading on your availability list. The desire to use natives is no longer a fad. The movements to ecological awareness, to gardening as a lifestyle — not an activity — and the need to make gardening more of a feel-good experience are washing over us. A subset of the feel-good experiences is the desire to include more native plants in American landscapes and gardens. Great performing plants and native plants are not at all exclusive. Why would I suggest that you can get into trouble if you grow natives? It comes down to peoples’ very different definitions of a native plant. There are often two big questions when a fight breaks […]

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June 19, 2008

The Oracle At OFA

I spent a little time at the OFA Short Course a few weeks ago. As usual, it was an exceptional show, with hundreds of vendors and thousands of visitors. It may not be worth it to go every year, but you really should try to make it once every two or three years. The educational sessions alone are worth the price of admission. However, the trade show is getting to be more like the Cirque du Soleil each year, so if nothing else, a wide-eyed gawking should be on the agenda every few years. I was asked to talk about some of the plant material that the vendors wanted to highlight. When I talked to the various vendors, it was of course, just as you would expect. All of them were shy, none wanted their photo taken and no one wanted to tell me how good their products were. (If […]

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June 19, 2008

On The Road With Uncle Al

One of the many activities I have enjoyed is meeting some of the people involved in the Ontario greenhouse industry. In the Niagara region of Ontario, there are dozens of greenhouses supporting the landscape and retail markets. Historically, these landscapers and retailers have had a number of trial sites to visit, but recently, the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation (COPF), in cooperation with Greenhouse Grower and Greenhouse Canada, initiated a multi-site field and container trial extravaganza. Nearly all the “popular” breeders were represented in at least one of the trial sites, so growers could see a wide range of annuals, all within a 90-minute drive. The sites included Stokes Seed, JVK, George Sant & Son, Ed Sobkowich, Sawaya Garden Trials, Schenk Farms, Vineland Research Station, University of Guelph, Linville Farms and Jeffries Greenhouse. Although attendance was not overwhelming, everyone involved felt it was a good idea and plans to continue it next […]

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June 19, 2008

White Stripes

Also known as Blueberry Flax Lily, variegated dianella is a phormium cousin. Both originate from New Zealand. However, where phormiums can be difficult to grow, expensive and limited in application, variegated dianella can be used in a broad range of applications. Variegated dianella is already being used as a landscape plant, sun or shade, throughout Florida. It thrives in coastal plantings from California through Washington, and Virginia around through the Gulf Coast. Variegated dianella can be used as indoor foliage everywhere, and is an incredible centerpiece plant for northern mixed containers. It is salt tolerant, heat and humidity tolerant, Zone 7 to 10 hardy and surprisingly adaptable to lower light situations. In addition, it grows significantly faster than comparably sized phormiums with many fewer cultural problems. At maturity, variegated dianella stands about 2 feet tall with graceful, draping leaves and a clean white/green color contrast. There are no reported serious […]

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June 19, 2008

Variety Shorts

Pansy Pals PanAmerican Seed’s Pansy Pals are varieties selected because of their similarities in culture and timing to pansies. Growers do not need to change practices they may already have in place for their pansy crop, and Pansy Pals can be grown and shipped right next to regular pansies. Hot Cakes matthiola varieties produce brightly-colored dwarf plants that are perfect for small-pot production. The series includes four colors and one mixture. Hot Cakes provides 100 percent fully double blooms consumers are looking for. ‘Mon Amie Blue’ myosotis has small light blue blooms and does not require vernalization, which lets growers put them on the market three to six months sooner than other varieties. A new color in the Matrix pansy series was recently introduced by PanAmerican Seed. ‘Matrix Morpheus’ features a vibrant blue cap and yellow lower petals. For more information, visit PanAmerican Seed’s Web site at www.panamseed.com Bright Colors […]

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June 19, 2008

Cascading Color

Cascading flowers from hanging baskets or a wave of color from upright stems and pyramids, in containers, in the garden or on balconies–fuchsias allow gardeners to improvise and fantasize endlessly. Summermelody fuchsias from GGG-Gruenewald are distinguished by early flowers and compact growth. They have enormous weather stability, as well. In addition to the popular red-white ‘Sunfilipe,’ the company is introducing two new varieties: ‘Orient Point,’ which is a pink/white, double with a compact habit, and ‘Sunmiguel,’ a pink/violet, single, compact variety. GGG-Gruenewald also is introducing several new sedums, including hybrids ‘Blue Carpet’ and ‘Bertram Anderson.’ The plants are perfect for gardens or balconies, or as solitary plants for containers. They also work well as hardy garden perennials. For more information, visit www.ggg-gruenewald.com.

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June 19, 2008

Best In Show

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this page is a visual dissertation. Here are the varieties that ranked “Best In Show” in university trials at Colorado State University, University of Georgia, The Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University and Pennsylvania State University. At Pennsylvania State University’s trials, there was a tie for Best In Show between Ball FloraPlant’s new angelonia varieties, ‘AngelMist Spreading Pink’ (pictured above) and ‘AngelMist Spreading White’ (pictured below). University of Georgia’s trials declared osteospermum ‘Crescendo Primrose’ from Paul Ecke Ranch Best In Show. At Oklahoma State University, lobelia ‘Hot Blue’ from Cohen Nursery, part of the Agrexco cooperative, was Best In Show. The Ohio State University Extension in Springfield named Proven Winners’ ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ Best In Show. Proven Winners’ cleome ‘Spirit Apple Blossom’ was Best In Show at Colorado State University trials.

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June 19, 2008

Succulents And Osteos From EuroAmerican

Everything old is new again with the Retro Succulents line. A throwback to the ’70s, Retro Succulents are unique, structural succulents that are a perfect fit for today’s busy consumers, especially those who demand the latest style without all the hassle. Plants are naturally low maintenance and durable with low water usage, forgiving even the most neglectful owner. Conserving water makes these succulents a fashionable and environmentally friendly option, as well. “Retro Succulents are designed to thrive,” says David Doolittle, marketing director for EuroAmerican. “These low-maintenance plants are nearly care free and are sure to be a conversation piece, adding a bit of flare and individuality to the garden or home.” Aloes, echeverias and agaves make up the 16 varieties in the series. Retros come in a range of colors and boast leaf designs that run from narrow and pointed to thick and curvy, and even to those with teeth! Unrooted […]

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June 19, 2008

Strength And Beauty

As you know, vinca has been one of the most popular bedding plants around. However, its popularity has suffered due to its susceptibility in the landscape and the greenhouse to aerial Phytophthora. Realizing this weakness in the plant, Goldsmith Seeds set out on an almost twenty year breeding program to come up with a series of seed vinca that would be resistant to this devastating disease. The result of this effort was the introduction of Coraââ€�¢ vinca, the only vinca series from seed with patented disease resistance to aerial Phytophthora. This breeding breakthrough will not only benefit growers who have suffered from losses while finishing their crops, but will especially benefit homeowners and landscapers who have planted beautiful vinca plants only to see them perish in the garden during adverse weather conditions. Benefits of Cora vinca include: – Patented disease resistance to aerial Phytophthora* – F1 hybrid vigor – A real […]

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June 19, 2008

Medal of Excellence

It’s the best-kept secret every year at OFA Short Course — the winners of Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence Awards for Industry and Editor’s Choice. More than 250 attended our event to see winners Selecta and Benary. Previously announced award winners, Paul Ecke Ranch for Industry Achievement and the STEPABLES brand for Excellence in Marketing, were also presented their award statuettes. Paul Ecke Ranch For the Industry Achievement award, we recognized Paul Ecke Ranch for its transformation to become the leading cuttings producers serving U.S. growers in both spring annuals and poinsettias. “Those that stand still fall behind,” said Paul Ecke III while accepting the company’s award. “We have had a lot of success growing and selling, but, of course, we couldn’t do it without the breeders, inside and out, especially Sakata and Yoder, our partner in the Flower Fields.” Ecke also thanked the company’s 900 employees, rooting stations, propagation […]

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June 18, 2008

Growing Overseas

An aging population, water safety and smaller living spaces are some of the forces driving floriculture in Europe, as well as the United States. The National Floriculture Forum’s trip to Holland and Germany in January looked at how growers, retailers and educators are grappling with these and other industry trends. The trip rounded up with a few days at the IPM Essen show. The National Floriculture Forum brings together academia and industry to discuss floriculture issues and research. In Holland, the group visited seven growers, who grow a variety of crops, from bulbs to orchids to ferns. Grower highlights included Wesselman Flowers, which grows bulbous crops hydroponically. Producing tulips, lilies and brodiea for grocery chains, Wesselman sells 90 percent of its product between January and April. Its 20 million tulips per year are grown quicker and cleaner in water instead of media. With impressive packaging automation, pot plant producer Humako Plant […]

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June 18, 2008

Cut Flower Review

Move over, carnations. A multitude of unique new cut flower varieties for 2007 are just waiting to grace the bouquets and arrangements that delight thousands of lucky recipients ever day. And this year’s introductions, with their cheery colors and lovely fruit and flower forms, are sure to bring smiles to many faces. We thank all of the companies that highlighted their new cut flower varieties in this feature.  AGASTACHE ‘Sangria’ features lemon-scented leaves and clusters of arching red-purple blossoms. Available from Jelitto, this easy-to-germinate variety is a lovely perennial that will flower the first year.   ANDROPOGON Available from Jelitto, ‘Prairie Blues’ has ribbon-like leaf blades and fluffy, silvery seed heads in autumn and early winter. It is easy to germinate, drought resistant and cold hardy.   ANTIRRHINUM Golden yellow flowers tinged with pink accents adorn the long, 40-inch, dense flower spikes of ‘Animation Cognac’ from Benary. Its long vase life […]

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June 18, 2008

Variety Shorts

Voluptuous Varieties New varieties from Sahin include achillea ‘Flowerburst Red Shades,’ amaranthus ‘Autumn Pallet’ and digitalis ‘Candy Mountain.’ Achillea ‘Flowerburst Red Shades’ is a smashing new introduction of Sahin’s achilleas (now a total of three mixes: ‘Summer Berries,’ ‘Summer Pastels’ and ‘Flowerburst Red Shades’). Achilleas are great instant perennials with bold colors. ‘Flowerburst Red Shades’ is a blend of mainly red/rose and violet shades, and its habit comparable to the other two mixes. Amaranthus ‘Autumn Pallet’ is a blend of Sahin’s well known ‘Autumn’s Touch’ (erect spikes of pistachio-green tipped with bronze) and ‘Hot Biscuits’ (Fleuroselect Quality Winner in ’97, warm orange brown spikes), excellent as autumn filler. Amaranthus also has great shelf life compared to may other fillers. Digitalis ‘Candy Mountain’ is unique, as it is the first upward-facing foxglove from seed. This unusual characteristic enables you and the bees to peep inside the stunning rose pink blooms and […]

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