Reinventing Old Genera

Buddleia 'Royal Red'

It’s a question asked every time plant development companies introduce a new variety of a plant that’s already well-established in our industry: Do we really need another ______?

Yet the idea of demanding that companies like Apple or Sony justify the release of new versions of their products is laughable. In other industries, constant innovation is expected; new products are not just encouraged but breathlessly awaited. It’s a given that popular products will regularly be improved upon to keep up with technological and economic realities. In the nursery industry, however, improved varieties of familiar plants are often met with skepticism and reluctance, if not outright disdain.

Help The Grower And The Gardener

The best of today’s breeding aims to meet the needs of the grower, the garden center and the end consumer, combining ease of production and excellent container presentation with enough interesting features and aesthetic qualities to appeal to even the most casual home gardener. More importantly, it does so by continually improving on plants that are already well-known, widely grown and much loved.

This continual improvement essentially eliminates the learning curve that would come with learning to grow entirely new crops. The changes being made to some of the best-loved, best-selling plants offer substantial benefit, as well as a way to address the constantly evolving challenges of today’s marketplace and garden culture.

Visual appeal, of course, will always be a primary breeding goal, and it is in this area that the most obvious improvements are being made. Now more than ever, color sells. It is the driving factor behind home gardeners’ purchasing decisions, and an unexpected or particularly outstanding color can persuade shoppers to rethink their original intentions. As plants are grouped by genus and color in the garden center setting, those with exceptional color demonstrate clear superiority to the alternatives around them.

Breeding advancements have improved the color of familiar flowers, making them richer and more pure, as with Petunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’ from Proven Winners. Breeding efforts have also created plants that retain color through hot spells (such as new lobelias), new foliage colors (such as new sweet potato vines) and entirely novel combinations of colors such as new calibrachoas and petunias. The color of older varieties literally pales by comparison to newer ones, and the end consumer is definitely noticing.

Breeders Battle Problematic Plants

The benefits of opting for new varieties transcend the merely aesthetic, though. The concept of sustainability seemed like little more than a buzzword a few years ago. Now it is driving many of the developments in new plants in some unexpected ways, like addressing issues of invasiveness. Consider the butterfly bush (Buddleia spp.) as an example. It is a beloved garden plant in much of North America, however, many produced prolific seed and it spread to natural areas, outcompeting native plants.

The problem became so severe in Oregon that transport and sale of buddleia was banned in the state in 2010. This disappointed gardeners as its colorful, long-lasting flowers and magnetic effect on butterflies and other pollinators made it a favorite. It also took revenue potential away from growers, because its popularity and fast growth rate had translated into big sales.

Fortunately, breeders had seen the problem coming and were ready with several garden-worthy sterile forms that were soon approved for sale despite the ban on other types. Now, “summer lilac” or “nectar bush” (as seedless forms of buddleia must be sold in Oregon to avoid confusion) is a successful crop for growers and a money-maker for garden centers.

New Varieties Are Eco-Friendly

Pesticide usage is another environmental issue being addressed with new varieties of popular plants. It is worth noting that genetic engineering is completely out of the scope of the ornamental breeding discussed here. Genetically modified crops have the actual DNA of a different organism forcibly inserted into an individual seed; the breeding techniques discussed here encompass more traditional methods and do not involve humans modifying the plants at a deep cellular level.

Rather, instead of enabling a grower to blanket-apply pesticides without killing the crop, as genetically modified crops sometimes do, ornamental plant breeders have created new varieties that have lower and increased branching or shorter internodes, which mean less use of growth regulators and other pesticides.

This can mean less money spent on PGRs, pesticides and paying overtime for application. In addition, decreased pesticide use reduces the risk of run-off and contamination that comes with every application and equipment rinsing, allowing growers to produce a truly sustainable crop.

Easy Plants Extend Beauty Throughout The Season

No-maintenance plants will probably never exist, but new developments in breeding are quickly making low-maintenance the standard. Breeders have developed compact forms of formerly lanky plants, stronger stems on notoriously floppy plants and self-cleaning plants that senesce their own flowers naturally.

The same maintenance chores that are eliminated for the home gardener — pruning, staking and dead-heading — are more or less eliminated for the grower as well, at least for as long as the plant is under his or her care. When customers know that one of their many choices will continue to flower all season without dead-heading or won’t require pruning, it signifies added value and implies a greater chance at success.

As much as the selection of available plant varieties may change, one thing won’t: time and money will always be precious. To maximize the capabilities of staff and facilities — as well as to make a profit — quicker-growing, lower-maintenance crops are the answer. Many new varieties require less pinching and trimming. Most importantly, these varieties have the vigor to shorten turn times, increasing profitability.

Today’s economic realities have changed the way consumers shop — they also want maximum return for minimum investment in time and money. They’re not willing to pay for an old lobelia that just stops flowering when summer heats up or for a petunia that needs constant deadheading and pinching. Because so many of the new varieties have marketing behind them, either in the form of traditional or web advertising or increased signage and more informative tags at the garden center, the value of paying a bit more for an improved variety is obvious.

Innovation Adds Value To The Marketplace

New plants don’t just happen — they’re the result of concerted breeding efforts and years of work. While tissue culture makes distributing them quicker and more cost-effective, it still takes staggering amounts of time, space and skill to create new varieties. Breeders won’t stake their reputation on a plant that has no viability in the contemporary marketplace.

Even if the breeders did, the companies they rely on to get their plants to the public won’t pour time and marketing money into plants that don’t bring something valuable to the links along the supply chain.

In many ways, breeders are the most forward-thinking members of the industry, working on addressing potential problems within a genus before they become detrimental. Embracing the innovative nature of these plants offers clear advantages and differentiates a business as visionary, self-aware and relevant.

So, do we really need another _______? Maybe the real question is, “Can we continue to provide the highest quality product without it?”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introductions For 2017

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

Read More
Craspedia Golf Ball Beauty (Danziger)

August 19, 2016

Learn How Unconventional Plants Can Be Hidden Gems

According to Kelly Norris, plant breeding inspired by consumer motivations and interests restores our connection with consumers thirsty for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Moonstruck' (2015 Welby Gardens Field Trials)

August 9, 2016

Welby Gardens Names Top Selections From Its Trial Garde…

Welby Gardens, an exclusive grower of Hardy Boy Plants, tested more than 900 varieties this year in its field and container trials. Find out which varieties were the cream of the crop.

Read More

August 6, 2016

Growing Tips On Petunia ‘Night Sky’ From Da…

Production tips for Petunia ‘Night Sky’ from Dan Chaney, Vice President of Production, at Ivy Acres.

Read More
Janeen Wright

August 5, 2016

Deliver Plant Performance As Promised

It would be ludicrous to promise more than you can deliver. But you can deliver more than you promise to your greenhouse customers.

Read More
OSU 2016 In-Ground trials

August 2, 2016

Ohio State University 2016 Plant Trials Offer Real-Time…

The Ohio State University (OSU) displayed more than 500 cultivars for evaluation this year at the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens in Columbus, OH. Several Cultivate'16 attendees took the opportunity to wander the trial grounds and evaluate in-ground entries and those in sun and shade containers and hanging baskets.

Read More
Bellis Speedster (Benary)

August 2, 2016

How Fall Can Be About More Than Pansies

Allan Armitage suggests a few notable plants for the fall shoulder, fall sales, and spring shoulder seasons.

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Queen of Hearts' from Danziger

August 1, 2016

Danziger Targets Future Growth With Recent Management C…

The changes will provide a foundation of growth, creativity, and innovation, notes Micha Danziger, who will now serve as chairman of the Board of Directors.

Read More
Griffin 2017 Seed and Plant catalog

July 31, 2016

Griffin 2017 Plant Catalog Now Available In Print And D…

The print catalog features more than 280 new varieties, while the digital edition has several bonus resources.

Read More
Westhoff-Florist Holland combos

July 30, 2016

Pair New Spring Crops With Fresh Ideas For Increased Sa…

There are plenty of exciting, new spring crops to consider incorporating into your crop selection. What will set your operation apart is how creative you are about what plants you select, and how you promote them.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Ed…

Taking something as ubiquitous as vegetables and herbs and giving it a fresh new look is no easy task, but Pleasant View Gardens took on the challenge with extensive research and creative marketing.

Read More
Dummen New Columbus Office

July 21, 2016

Dümmen Orange Opens New North American Headquarters In …

The new office, which officially opened during Cultivate’16, supports the company’s vision to be integrated into a vibrant and inspiring community, and provides a bright, modern workspace for its approximately 30 local employees.

Read More
Pollen Free Lisianthus

July 20, 2016

Sakata Seed Develops World’s First Pollen-Free Lisianth…

With no stamen to produce pollen, the new Lisianthus varieties have improved flower durability and the benefit of no scattered pollen that can cause staining of flowers and machines.

Read More

July 19, 2016

17 New Vegetable Intros For Greenhouse Production

New varieties of edibles introduced at 2016 California Spring Trials offer something for every type of gardener, from the beginning do-it-yourselfer to the hardcore, heirloom-only type. Check out some of the new varieties we saw at Spring Trials this year that will be available for retail in 2017.

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