This May Be The Year Of …

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Cascading Patchwork Cosmic Orange

It’s early April as I write this. There’s hardly any winter anywhere, and I’m already seeing the look of anticipation on the faces of growers, retailers and consumers. Unemployment is down and hope is up, so I look forward to hearing good news as spring progresses.

In my travels here, there and around the California Spring Trials, I could not help but notice a number of trends, plant groups or ideas that resurface time and again. These may be nothing more than passing fads, but here goes:

… Cascading Plants
I hear it all the time: What can I put in containers and window boxes that cascade? There have been many choices, but I keep seeing the breeders working their magic. From cascading pansies (Cool Wave), vinca (Cascading Cora) and impatiens (Patchwork, Tumbler series) to begonias (Crackling Fire,  Sunset), fruit (‘Toscana’ strawberries), veggies (‘Bellina’ sweet pepper) and hanging osteos (Osticade series) – and many more.

Are cascaders a trend or a fad? To me, these are a trend.

… Veggies
There’s no doubt veggies have always been popular, and ornamental vegetables have been around for many years. With the advent of the Vegetalis lines, in which edibles are also ornamental, veggies are moving into the mixed container and onto the patio.

This is a great thing because it is an avenue to allow the vegetable gardener (man) to actually talk to the flower gardener (woman), and have something in common. Such breakthroughs may even save some marriages.

We are seeing more work this year in patio-type veggies such as ‘Cayennetta’ sweet pepper, Tumbler and ‘Topsy Tom’ tomatoes. However, with the efforts Syngenta is putting into “real vegetables for real people in a real garden,” and Burpee’s efforts to bring all vegetables to growers and consumers, I have no doubt we will all be much healthier.

Grafted veggies such as Mighty Matos and heirloom tomatoes on vigorous rootstalks are also in vogue. This is good for healthy living, as well. A few English and Australian guys sitting around the lunch table with me one afternoon were making snide comments about American portion sizes in restaurants (as if anyone actually cleans their plates!), and that nobody eats greens (have they seen how people love their collard greens?). Now, with all these companies putting their skills to work, we shall have no choice but to be healthy.

A trend or a fad? To me, this is a five-year fad.

… QR Codes
Everyone is doing QR codes, and the information scanned is as diverse as the United Nations. MasterTag must have shown 50 different squiggles, and nearly all companies were displaying them.

Of course, to actually have anyone scan a QR code more than once will require some creativity. Why scan a tag to get information already on the label? Or to come to a complicated website that can hardly be read on a smartphone anyway?

We can do much better, and must, for QR codes to remain a viable marketing tool. I may never scan one but my grandkids sure will.

A trend or a fad? To me, QR codes are a 3-year fad.

… Roses
The ascendency of roses up the food chain of ornamentals has been nothing short of spectacular. The introduction of Knockout and other excellent foliar-cleaning roses have resulted in huge increases in woody nurseries. But the breeding of shorter material like Drift and Oso Easy, along with newer entries like My Bouquet and Table To Garden from Greenheart Farms, are putting rose genetics into the hands of the greenhouse trade.

And now, with the advent of series like Sunrosa (Suntory Flowers), Kolorscape (Greenheart’s exclusive series for Ball) and Sunblaze (Greenheart), roses are everywhere. Given the fact that I am now trialing Knockouts, Drifts, Floral Carpets, David Austins and Carefrees at the University of Georgia, my only question is: Where will I put them all?

A trend or a fad? To me, roses are a trend.

Allan Armitage (allan@greenhouse grower.com) is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

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