Thoughts On California Pack Trials

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Thoughts On California Pack Trials

Our esteemed magazine editor, Delilah Onofrey, wrote many a fine blog posting during the 2007 Pack Trials, and if you didn’t read those up-to-date factual accounts, you missed out on the heart and soul of the trials. I accompanied Delilah to the Northern part of the tour, but had to return to my main job of confusing students after a few days. However, many thoughts of those days still remain, and here are just a few of them. Of course, they are my thoughts and opinions only, and I am usually wrong. 

Gaillardias Are Trying To Be The Next Echinacea

Keep your eyes peeled with breeding from around the world on this genus. In just the few places I visited, they were a plant that everyone wanted people to see. I especially liked the dwarf forms coming from Kieft Co. (Gallo series), but the material at Syngenta (Sunburst series) was also exciting. I have looked at other recent entries into the gaillardia market (‘Fanfare’, ‘Oranges and Lemons’) from Plant Haven and the Commotion series from Skagit Gardens–all good, but some will prove to be better than others over time. What we saw is just the tip of the iceberg, and additional breeding is well underway in Europe and in this country. No doubt, there will be a good deal of promotion to support them. Let’s hope they perform for the landscaper and gardener well enough to sustain the hype.

The thing to remember about gaillardias is that they hate water, and overwintering in wet containers is sure death. Poor drainage in the landscape provokes a similar fate.

The other thing to remember is that my daughter will never be able to pronounce gaillardia, so sell her blanket flowers instead. Simplify!

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing!

This mantra sounds like a realtor telling us about location, location, location! In the last few years, it’s been all about marketing programs, and on the few stops I made, my eyes were already whirling and twirling. I loved the color combinations at GGG, simple but effective means for value-added merchandising. The carry-out containers at John Henry were an excellent idea to take advantage of that impulse purchase. And how could you not enjoy the creativity of the Disney characters like PoohBear and Eeyore adorning the containers of annuals. I suspect the people who created this program want the kids to buy something when they accompany Mom to the plant store. Lucky Mom, one more thing to say no to, or perhaps this time she will say yes.

The thing to remember about any marketing program is to be sure the plants chosen to carry out that program work. A national program with the same plant material sold across the country is destined to fail and will take other marketing programs down with it. We have been so inundated with ads about cars and medicine that require three-minute disclaimers, most new marketing programs are met with cynicism–be sure the plants and the market program go together, or we will all suffer.

The other thing to remember is that my daughter will only be burned once. She will throw out the cute promotional box and pot, but she will expect the plants to perform as advertised. 

Sustainability Is Already Becoming A Four-Letter Word

Already people are tired of hearing about sustainability. Yet, it was only a year ago that the subject was even breached in a serious manner. Lars Jensen of Ellegaard said it right when he stated that people think “we are trying to go from zero to 60 in a single year.” He stated that such expectations are unreasonable and that sustainability will be most successful when it is achieved in small steps over time. So Lars and I agree–everyone needs to chill out–no one is shoving anything down anyone else’s throats. However, there is lots going on, from biodegradable pots, plastics, labels and tags to organic fertilizers and soils. It is really exciting, and those who wish to move in that direction now have many options they did not have only a few years ago. Bully for us, I say.

The thing to remember is that many of these materials are in early stages of testing and development. Don’t become the sustainability king without trialing everything, slowly over time.

The other thing to remember is that my daughter loves this sustainability thing, even if you don’t.

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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2 comments on “Thoughts On California Pack Trials

  1. Anonymous

    Did you happen to pick up on any trends from breeders/propagators that would pay back proceeds from sales or royalties to cancer research or other causes?

  2. Anonymous

    Did you happen to pick up on any trends from breeders/propagators that would pay back proceeds from sales or royalties to cancer research or other causes?