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...
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Edibles

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 Columbus, OH

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 Lisianthus

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
Latest Stories
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
One Earth Edibles From Peace Tree Farm

July 16, 2016

How To Capture Your Share Of The Edibles Market

At Peace Tree Farm, One Earth Edibles represent healthy living on a healthy planet.

Read More
Terra Nova Nurseries Catalog

July 15, 2016

New Product Catalog From Terra Nova Nurseries Designed …

The new catalog, which made its debut at Cultivate’16, offers easy access to organized genera grouped alphabetically, and also by size, color, habit, top sellers, photography, newest varieties, and USDA horticultural zones.

Read More
Pleasant View Open House

July 8, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens And D.S. Cole Growers Hosting Ope…

The 20th annual event will feature new introductions from Proven Winners, as well as annuals, combos, and Pleasant View’s new Savor Edibles and Fragrants line.

Read More
NatureSweet

July 5, 2016

NatureSweet And Ganfer Partner On Tomato Production

The partnership will add more than 250 acres of NatureSweet greenhouse tomato production over the next three years.

Read More
SunPatiens Sakata Medal of Excellence Feature

June 29, 2016

SunPatiens Earns The 2016 Medal Of Excellence In Market…

With its reputation for excellent garden performance from spring to frost, and as a problem-solver for Impatiens Downy Mildew, SunPatiens has become a “hero plant” that helps gardeners succeed.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

June 28, 2016

Kelly Norris: Three Variety Trends That Caught My Eye T…

My reflections on promising new plants, the realities of market penetration, and adding value along the supply chain.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

June 25, 2016

Three Types Of Plant Consumers To Watch

There are three emerging groups of plant consumers that you should be targeting for plant sales in the future, according to Allan Armitage.

Read More
FleuroStar Award Ceremony

June 20, 2016

Begonia Hybrid ‘Miss Malibu’ Takes Home FleuroStar Awar…

The award from Fleuroselect was announced at the Green Inspiration Event in Amsterdam.

Read More
Caryopteris 'Beyond Midnight Bluebeard'

June 20, 2016

Keep The Sales Coming With 16 New Blooming Varieties Fo…

Plants that put on a show from first frost long into fall and offer the color options consumers want for their gardens go a long way toward extending sales further into the season and can help maintain your sales momentum going strong. Check out these 16 new blooming varieties, both traditional favorites and new alternatives, for your fall crop selection.

Read More
'Osaka' Flowering Cabbage (Sakata Ornamentals)

June 18, 2016

Mark Your Calendar For Sakata Seed Trials In August

Sakata has set two dates for its California-based trials: Aug. 15-17 in Salinas, and Aug. 17-19 in Woodland.

Read More
Tomato Congress Logo

June 15, 2016

International Tomato Congress In Mexico Will Focus On G…

The event, which takes place in San Luis Potosi from July 20-22, will feature discussions on production strategies, cost management in protected structures, and optimizing your greenhouse environment.

Read More
Nir Nursery Wax Flower Pot Plant

June 14, 2016

Danziger Reaches Deal To Distribute Nir Nursery Varieti…

With the agreement, Danziger becomes the exclusive distributor of Nir’s product line, which includes cut flowers, foliage, pot, and garden plants.

Read More

June 14, 2016

Dümmen Orange Expands Its Succulent Offerings Through N…

According to Dümmen Operations Director Kate Santos, succulents are an attractive growth category because of their ease of use, shelf life in stores, drought tolerance, and versatility in application.

Read More
'Osaka' Flowering Cabbage (Sakata Ornamentals)

June 14, 2016

New Cool Season, Vegetable, And Foliage Crops For Fall …

Whether you’re providing pansies and violas to the garden center for fall color or decorative edibles to grace patio containers, consider these 16 varieties for fall crop sales, newly introduced for 2016 and hitting retail in 2017.

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