The New Plant Dilemma: Too Many Everythings

I think we will forever have too many annuals and too many perennials. I don’t see plant companies or independent breeders putting the brakes on now, nor do I see them slowing down much in the future. Nobody walks into the garden center and asks, “What’s old?” So we keep at it.

No sane person looking at the number of new products we introduce every year, compared to the number of new customers each year, can ignore that one number is going way up while the other is going way down. Even though all the research, empirical and otherwise, states that plants are but decorations for a lifestyle (even the term “lifestyle” can’t be clearly defined), we keep introducing cultivar after cultivar. I don’t for a minute believe one is closely tied to the other, but it does seem we are like dinosaurs at times under an ever-darkening sky, chewing obliviously on. Should we slow down? I don’t know.

I for one love seeing the next 10 heucheras, the next great vinca and the next dozen calibrachoas. I enjoy talking about their growth in the greenhouse and their performance in the Trial Gardens at UGA. But I am a plant junkie, and what I like has little to do with the real world.

I speak about new plants all over the country–to you, to the commercial world and to the “real” world, the people actually buying our products. The talks are similar in content, but the message is totally different. I mention a new angelonia or a new rudbeckia or a new sweet potato, and while most of you are interested, you are, with reason, cautious and conservative. When I talk about those same products to gardeners and landscapers, the number one question is: “How do I know if they are any good here?” The “here”could be Point Huron, Mich., Roanoke, Va., or Atlanta, Ga.

The number one thing gardeners want from us is not another red geranium but a plant they can count on. And they are willing to do some soil preparation, weeding and watering. But having done that, they are no longer willing to take all the blame for plants that die because they are not suited for their climate.

I think we are finally recognizing that independent retailers and even the box stores–should they ever get their act together–are the most important cogs in providing the right plants to make the consumer comfortable and successful. That relationship must be nurtured or new plants will be as useful as a new slide projector. You have heard this from me before, but we will trudge on.

Where Can I Find That?

The other report I commonly hear is that “I can’t find any of these things.” And I’m not talking about the newest of the new either. I am talking about plants that have been out for over a year. This suggests not only are we confusing ourselves with too much, but there isn’t enough space in retail outlets to even get them on the shelf.

It should come as no surprise that specialty mail-order nurseries are so popular. Actually, there is room on the shelf if they’d minimize the acres of unnamed “red impatiens” and 18 different sizes of pelargoniums. It is difficult to support a local supplier when the only things they sell labeled properly are hoses and tools, and the only “new products” offered are gazing globes. This may not be true everywhere, but it is true in too many areas.

Historically, the Spring Trials in California have been the Mecca of new crop gluttony, each stop providing dozens more plants that weren’t there last year and many of which will disappear in two or three years. Times are, however, changing a little. Marketing companies like John Henry are playing a more important role than they used to, and Paul Ecke Ranch has been putting more emphasis on value-added products in the last five years. In fact, Sakata and Benary, both leading companies in new crop development, will not be formally participating in the trials this year, perhaps circling the wagons and working on better ways to move material they already have.

Last year, many of the players were working hard on value-added marketing, such as instant combination plantings that work for the retailer, color combinations and other novel ideas to make the jobs of the grower and the retailer easier. I know for a fact instant combos for the grower and retailer are being researched aggressively, not only for color combinations but for the right plants for the right locales. Now, that makes sense to me.

I stated many years ago “new crops are the lifeblood of this industry.” I still believe that to be true. Perhaps this is only a dilemma in my head. After all, we have wondered if we have had too many red geraniums for years. I just wonder if we don’t have too many everythings today. 

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Suntory Blue Rose Applause

October 21, 2017

Suntory’s Blue Rose ‘Applause’ Now Available to U.S. Florists

‘Applause’ was originally introduced to the U.S. in 2011, and since then it was been successfully tested and selected to meet new market conditions.

Read More

October 17, 2017

14 New Shrubs With Fringe Benefits

What’s popular with shrubs? Consumers want varieties that will give them more return on their investment, in terms of long-lasting blooms and multi-season appeal that lasts from spring until fall and at times stretches into the winter months. Here are 14 new varieties of shrubs and sub-shrubs to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More

October 14, 2017

PlantPeddler Hosting Poinsettia Variety Day in December

The event will feature side-by-side comparisons of more than 100 commercial and pre-released varieties from seven breeders.

Read More
Latest Stories
Suntory Blue Rose Applause

October 21, 2017

Suntory’s Blue Rose ‘Applause’ Now Available to U.S. Fl…

‘Applause’ was originally introduced to the U.S. in 2011, and since then it was been successfully tested and selected to meet new market conditions.

Read More

October 17, 2017

14 New Shrubs With Fringe Benefits

What’s popular with shrubs? Consumers want varieties that will give them more return on their investment, in terms of long-lasting blooms and multi-season appeal that lasts from spring until fall and at times stretches into the winter months. Here are 14 new varieties of shrubs and sub-shrubs to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More

October 14, 2017

PlantPeddler Hosting Poinsettia Variety Day in December

The event will feature side-by-side comparisons of more than 100 commercial and pre-released varieties from seven breeders.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Coastal Callas Is a Dream Fulfilled for Founder Adrian …

Adrian Espinoza and his family founded Rancho Espinoza Inc. and Coastal Callas in California seven years ago with a mission and purpose to provide consistent quality and reliable supply of calla lilies to the marketplace.

Read More
Azalea Encore Autumn Bonfire

October 4, 2017

Big Changes on the Horizon for Woody Ornamentals

The future looks bright for the woody ornamentals market, with exciting new varieties in the pipeline that will offer greater disease resistance, cold hardiness, bloom capacity, and more.

Read More

October 3, 2017

25 New Blooming Potted Plants for Luxury Sales

Consider these new blooming potted plant varieties that offer full blooms, unique foliage, and a touch of extravagance and easy maintenance for time-strapped customers who want to pamper themselves.

Read More
Hydrangea 'Berry White' (Bailey Nurseries)

October 2, 2017

Woody Ornamentals Market Set for Growth

The woody ornamentals market is looking up. Now, out-of-the box thinking about product offerings and consumer education will keep things moving in the right direction.

Read More

September 27, 2017

New Mum Intros From California Spring Trials 2017

For fall gardening product selection, you can't go wrong with offering mums. Here are a few of the new introductions that we saw at California Spring Trials 2017 that will be making their retail debut in 2018.

Read More
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer BloomStruck’ (Bailey Nurseries)

September 26, 2017

Bailey Nurseries Enhances Product Development Program, …

Plant Introductions, which Bailey purchased almost three years ago, is being rebranded as Bailey Innovations, an entity that will breed and trial new varieties in Georgia.

Read More
Green Fuse Lupine Staircase Pink

September 24, 2017

How to Effectively Grow Staircase Lupine

The Staircase Lupine series, part of Green Fuse Botanicals’ First Light Perennials collection, has the potential to put on a great display with solid and bicolor hues.

Read More
Terra Nova 2018 Catalog

September 23, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries’ Latest Plant Catalog is Now Avail…

The new 2017-2018 plant catalog, which features hundreds of varieties, series, and collections from Terra Nova Nurseries, pays homage to the company’s 25th anniversary.

Read More
Armitage GWA Buffalo Tour 5

September 21, 2017

Tour of Buffalo Gardens Reveals Hidden Gems And Communi…

This past August, Allan Armitage joined the Association for Garden Communicators on a tour of Buffalo. It was a reminder that that we can make a difference in neighborhoods, in cities, and in people’s lives.

Read More
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here&…

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Ball, Tagawa Succulents Partnership

September 14, 2017

Ball Seed to Partner With Tagawa Greenhouses on New Suc…

The new program includes in-demand retail products that are popular with younger shoppers, allowing growers to easily build a comprehensive succulent program and stay on-trend in the marketplace.

Read More
Strait-Laced Elderberry

September 10, 2017

Check Out the Top Varieties On Display at Farwest 2017

A panel of plant experts, along with show attendees, selected their favorite offerings during the Farwest 2017 New Varieties Showcase.

Read More

September 5, 2017

Hort Couture Announces New Propagation and Broker Partn…

The new grower-propagator partners are deeply vested in the independent garden center channel with propagation expertise, as well as finished production focused on the independent grower.

Read More
Helianthus Sunfinity (Syngenta Flowers)

September 3, 2017

Growing Tips for Helianthus Sunflower ‘Sunfinity…

This annual sunflower is a profuse bloomer with strong branching that produces multiple flowers per plant from spring to fall.

Read More
Ball Seed Field Day 2017

September 2, 2017

Highlights from Ball Seed’s Annual Field Day and Landsc…

Attendees of the one-day event had the opportunity to see new plants in up-close-and-personal trials, and engage with speakers and product experts.

Read More