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...
SunStanding-New-Guinea-Impatiens-Dummen-Orange-feature

December 7, 2017

Growing Tips From a Pro for SunStanding New Guinea Impatiens

SunStanding New Guinea impatiens hybrids spruce up the landscape with vibrant blooms that explode with color in both sun and shade areas, and they hold up well in heat and humidity.

Read More
Japan-Airlines-princettia

December 7, 2017

Suntory Pairs Princettia with Several Breast Cancer Awareness Promotions

Suntory Flowers is partnering with several major brands to support breast cancer awareness and fundraising, using its bright-pink Princettia euphorbias as the ideal plant for Pink Ribbon promotions.

Read More
Brandon-Coker-and-John-Ruter-University-of-Georgia

December 3, 2017

Great Plants for 2018 That Stand Up to Heat and Humidity

In his latest column, Allan Armitage credits trial managers at the University of Georgia, who have come up with an extensive list of plants that continually outperform others throughout the season.

Read More
Latest Stories
SunStanding-New-Guinea-Impatiens-Dummen-Orange-feature

December 7, 2017

Growing Tips From a Pro for SunStanding New Guinea Impa…

SunStanding New Guinea impatiens hybrids spruce up the landscape with vibrant blooms that explode with color in both sun and shade areas, and they hold up well in heat and humidity.

Read More
Japan-Airlines-princettia

December 7, 2017

Suntory Pairs Princettia with Several Breast Cancer Awa…

Suntory Flowers is partnering with several major brands to support breast cancer awareness and fundraising, using its bright-pink Princettia euphorbias as the ideal plant for Pink Ribbon promotions.

Read More
Brandon-Coker-and-John-Ruter-University-of-Georgia

December 3, 2017

Great Plants for 2018 That Stand Up to Heat and Humidit…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage credits trial managers at the University of Georgia, who have come up with an extensive list of plants that continually outperform others throughout the season.

Read More
Veronicastrum

December 1, 2017

Kelly Norris On How You Can Sell a New Landscape, With …

In his latest column, Kelly Norris says programs like Plant Select deliberately set out to change the market demand for a different palette of plants. Their success should serve as an example for how to authentically connect the gardening experience of a particular region with the supply chain.

Read More
MSU-Annual-Trial-Garden

November 29, 2017

2017 Michigan State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.

Read More
MOBOT-Trial-Gardens

November 27, 2017

2017 Missouri Botanical Garden Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO.

Read More
ISU-Trial-Beds

November 26, 2017

2017 Iowa State University/Reiman Gardens Field Trials …

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Iowa State University/Reiman Gardens in Ames, IA.

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses 2017 Container Trials

November 25, 2017

2017 Lucas Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results from Lucas Greenhouses in Monroeville, NJ.

Read More
Upper-garden_Mast-Young

November 24, 2017

2017 Mast Young Plants Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results from Mast Young Plants in Grand Rapids, MI.

Read More
Pentas-Graffitti-Lipstick

November 23, 2017

2017 Dallas Arboretum Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Dallas Arboretum in Dallas, TX.

Read More
Pentas-Lucky-Star-Red

November 22, 2017

2017 Louisiana State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results Louisiana State University in Hammond, LA.

Read More
Echeveria-First-Lady

November 21, 2017

2017 D.S. Cole Growers Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH.

Read More
Millet-Copper-Prince

November 20, 2017

2017 Colorado State University Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.

Read More
Achillea-Ritzy-Ruby

November 19, 2017

2017 Green Leaf Plants Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Green Leaf Plants in Lancaster, PA.

Read More
Ball-Bed-with-Midnight-Snack-tomato_Cornell

November 18, 2017

2017 Cornell University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Read More
Pepper Cayenne ‘Red Ember’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds)

November 17, 2017

Presenting All-America Selections’ Latest Round of Awar…

All-America Selections has announced the latest round of its award-winning varieties, each of which was trialed throughout North America by professional, independent, volunteer judges.

Read More
Eason-New-Calibrachoa-Hi-Graft

November 14, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Introduces New Decorative…

Created by Hishtil Nursery in Israel, the new decorative forms of calibrachoa feature an 8- to 12-inch stem and come in four colors of calibrachoa blooms on top.

Read More
Pennisetum glaucum 'Copper Prince'

November 13, 2017

Top Performing Plant Varieties from 2017 Field Trials

See some of plant varieties that made top performer lists in 2017 field trials across the country.

Read More