Early flowering and overall toughness in the landscape make Muhlenbergia capillaris Fast Forward® a standout ornamental grass, even at a company like Emerald Coast Growers, which is overflowing with ornamental grasses. Greenhouse Grower asked Josiah Raymer, head grower and general manager for Emerald Coast Growers, why he is especially excited about this plant.
GG: Muhlenbergia capillaris Fast Forward®
is an exclusive to Emerald Coast. How did this cultivar came about?
JR: In the summer of 2008 several early flowering plugs were found in a batch of Muhlenbergia capillaris. We grew these plugs out and planted them in our trial beds the following spring; we then selected the best looking plant and began dividing it the following fall.
GG: How long did you trial it to make sure it would be successful for growers and in the marketplace? Around 4 years What else goes into the process of making sure these are good plants for the market?
JR: We trialed Fast Forward in trial beds located in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Indiana to evaluate hardiness and quality of form and flowering. We also did evaluations for propagation and production in the nursery setting.
GG: It has a lot of characteristics that should appeal to consumers such as drought resistance and salt tolerance. What else will consumers like?
JR: People in more northern locations will like the earlier flowering quality as it will increase the odds of flowering before first frost.
GG: What will growers like? Tell me a bit about the production cycle.
JR: Fast Forward will fill out a pot in a very similar time frame as the species and will not need to be trimmed during production; expect 10 to 2 weeks in a gallon from a liner. Growers will appreciate the well behaved nature of Fast Forward compared to the species, it will not be as weepy and is a little easier to maintain and ship.
GG: Where do you think this variety will be especially popular?
JR: I think this variety will be popular in the home landscape as it has a form that allows it to be planted by itself as a specimen plant or in small groups. Also, it will be popular in more northern locations where the straight species may not achieve full flower before the first frost shuts it down for the winter.
GG: What are the overarching goals of Emerald Coast Growers’ breeding program?
JR: We are trying to develop new varieties that improve on the physical qualities and/or growing characteristics of different species.
GG: What characteristics do you breed/look for in your new introductions?
JR: On the physical side we are looking for new colors, variegation, or form. Anything that sets a plant apart. On the growing side we are looking for vigor, disease resistance, and good propagation/production qualities among other things.
GG: Do you have any personal favorites from the ECG catalog?
JR: I’m a big fan of some of our native grasses; tough plants that are already adapted to an environment increase the chances for success and reduce the amount of care required. There’s a certain survival of the fittest theme going on in my yard.