Years ago, when Angelonia first came on to the market as a mainstream crop, the plants were large and vigorous. Since that time, the breeding trend has been to move to smaller, more compact plants that are better suited to small pot production scenarios and hanging baskets. With the introduction of Angelface Super Angelonia, Proven Winners returns to the larger plant and flower type. The Super Angelface reach 20 to 24 inches in height depending on the conditions, and produce many 1-inch flowers on upright stems. The Angelface Super series differs from the Angelface series in that the Supers are taller plants with larger flowers and are better suited for consumer use as cut flowers with a more upright habit. The flowers have a distinct grape soda-like fragrance and are long lasting as cut flowers and are also a great addition to the landscape.
The cell phone has amassed colossal marketing power for retailers, brands, products and services. And it could (should) be the key that unlocks a robust, effective way for the green industry to reach millions of consumers.
Some IGCs and big-box stores have been using texts to talk to consumers for a number of years. But growers should consider conducting their own text message marketing, or partnering with their retail and landscape contractor customers to bolster the captivating story of plants.
Texts are somewhat easy to deploy and they’re certainly easy for the consumer to read. More than 90 percent of people read a text message within the first three minutes of receiving it, according to Mobilesquared, a global mobile research firm based in the UK.
Text message marketing supports and enriches the standard (or not-so-standard) tag found on most plants in the retail setting. Horticultural Marketing & Printing in Dallas has launched Mobile Advantage, a service that allows both growers and retailers to connect with consumers via text messages and mobile sites to ultimately drive more sales.
“The consumer is changing and the industry is changing,” says Jack Davis, VP of Marketing at Horticultural Marketing & Printing. “The plant tag was the primary means of communicating with the consumer. But the weakness there is the tag can’t contain all the information the consumer needs to be successful.
“A lantana in Chicago is an annual, where in Dallas it could be a perennial, or in Miami, it’s an evergreen shrub. The consumer may not know all of the cultural information. The tag has been a good tool, but with mobile technology, you have all the information you need at your fingertips.”
Davis’ company partnered with Blue Calypso Inc. to deploy the KIOSentrix technology which allows consumers to text short codes (These are located on a plant tag.) to a number that is exclusive to the brand, grower or retailer. The consumer receives a text that allows them to opt in to receive information on plants, for example. It also provides the consumer with a link to a page dedicated to extensive information on that plant — cultural information, planting tips, design ideas, companion plants and more. Horticultural Marketing & Printing tested the technology this year with Lowe’s stores and Monrovia.
“This mobile technology helps growers develop partnerships with retailers that goes beyond just plants,” Davis says. “It helps the retailer drive overall sales. The success of the grower is dependent on the success of the retailer. And the success of the retailer is dependent on engaging the consumer and getting them to come back and buy more plants.”
In some circumstances, the “text for more information” option was supported by POP so consumers would better understand how to use it and how it could help them make better plant choices.
Retailers can also use this technology to promote tie-in products such as pots, fertilizers or watering wands.
“You can engage the customer, you can target market them, and that’s powerful if you do it the right way. It’s an excellent way to build brands,” Davis says.
In more than 1,100 Lowe’s stores, there were 57,882 mobile engagements from March 1 through May 31 from the short codes, most of which were out of store, creating an opportunity to drive future store visits, Davis says.
This technology obliterates the old QR codes, says Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso.
“QR code deployment was poor, usage was poor. Only about 6 percent of mobile users had a QR reader on their phone, and they often failed to work in the retail setting,” says Levi. “We’re a data-driven society, we do more research and due diligence before we make a buying decision.”
Push the message
Monrovia rolled out short codes and texting on its tags for the first time this year in conjunction with its brand refresh, says Kristopher Lichthart, digital marketing manager at Monrovia.
The text codes, which took the place of QR codes, appear at the bottom of the tags, and push the consumer to a mobile site for expanded information on that particular plant.
“We’d been looking at ways to get more information about our plants to the consumer in ways they want to receive it — on their phones,” Lichthart says. “We saw this as a way to help consumers be more successful with our plants — giving them a recipe for success when they get home. We wanted to be positioned as a resource for gardening information.”
The mobile site houses more than 4,000 plants from Monrovia’s catalog. From there, consumers can sign up for quarterly gardening updates. Monrovia used POP at SummerWinds and McDonald garden centers to support the texting campaign. Monrovia also worked with the two IGCs to cross promote items on the mobile site.
Lichthart says the rollout was successful, and for next year’s tags Monrovia plans to increase the font size of the text codes, as well as other tag upgrades such as changing the shape, making them easier to read and using more color.
Mobile gardening coach
To help consumers feel more comfortable with plant purchases and post-purchase care, Bailey Nurseries tested a text message program for its Endless Summer hydrangea collection this year.
Endless Summer consumers who opt in will receive reminders that are tailored to different regions so they’re getting proper and timely tips. The tips primarily focus on the four most common hydrangea issues — understanding wilting; pruning; fertilizer; and winter prep, says Ryan McEnaney, communications specialist at Bailey Nurseries.
“Educating consumers on how to get the most out of their plants is one of the most important things that we can do as a brand. With constantly evolving technology, reaching and engaging the consumer becomes more and more challenging, but a text program allows us to deliver a quick and targeted message without being obtrusive,” he says.
Beginning in 2017, all new Endless Summer tags will have information about the text program. Bailey Nurseries is offering POP that highlights the brand’s Life in Full Bloom campaign, as well as the text program.
“Retailers have been really excited about the program. We’ve heard that it’s a great resource and talking point not only for their customers, but also can be used for training their employees,” McEnaney says. “If everyone is getting the same, timely information, it makes it easier for their staff to answer questions on the sales floor or phone. Consumers have been grateful for the information, and it’s led to even deeper conversations on the phone and social media.”
For more: www.hortmp.com
It seems like every week there’s a new fitness tracker for your wrist or pocket. I invested in a Fitbit watch a year and a half ago to motivate myself to get more exercise, and since then, the market has exploded. For the most part, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using the watch, and appreciate some of the high-tech features that make my life simpler. However, in the time that I’ve owned the device, I’ve had a few minor complaints.
First and foremost, while the purple silicone exterior may be fun, sporty and durable, it really doesn’t pair well with an elegant dress or a professional outfit. I thought of this afterwards, but at the time, there weren’t other options that would’ve suited me better. And the tracker wasn’t able to detect certain types of exercise.
I wasn’t the only one with these grievances, I would come to find. Recently, Fitbit debuted several new products and updated versions of existing ones that address these very issues. You can “outshine the ordinary” with snazzy gold-rimmed watches and “go from run to runway” with designer accessories for your Fitbit. They’ve expanded their software to include more exercises and made some of the wristbands interchangeable to get a different look.
My point is, Fitbit took the products that consumers liked, upgraded and tweaked them to remedy consumers’ problems with them, and brought them to market. The company kept the functioning products — which were most of them, perhaps with a few improvements — but didn’t completely toss out the products that were staples in the line. There was novelty, but also consistency.
Let’s bring it back to plants. Are you regularly revisiting your product line-up to ensure that you’re meeting your customers’ needs? Are those petunias really working for everyone, or should you consider switching up the color palette next year? Have you taken the time to ask your retail and landscape customers what’s been popular and what’s grown well this year?
It might be time to go back to the drawing board and see how you can update your product mix to keep things fresh for your customers without carrying out a complete overhaul on your availability list. Consistency is good, but perhaps throwing in some novelty could make your selection even better. For some guidance on how to go about it, turn to page 12 for some words of wisdom from Leslie Halleck and other industry members.
Karen E. Varga, Editor
216-393-0290 | Twitter: @Karen_GIE
Editor’s note: This year, more than a dozen trial garden managers submitted their best-in-show annuals and perennials for our 2016 Plant Trials report. Descriptions and photos of all varieties were submitted by their respective trial garden managers.
Best drought-tolerant annual
Vinca Soiree Kawaii Lavender (Suntory Flowers), Young’s Plant Farm
An excellent summer performer. It produces a mass of small lavender flowers that completely cover the plant. Very heat and drought tolerant.
Lantana Lucky Red (Ball FloraPlant), The Gardens at Ball
This plant never showed color fading or signs of weakness. It was the star of our Garden Gateway.
Celosia argentea ‘Asian Garden’ (Mukarami Seed), Iowa State University
I’ve been admiring this celosia in the garden for two years now and it was announced as a 2017 All-America Selections Flower Award Winner. This celosia starts out a lovely pinky-purple and even through the hottest of days, maintains its splendor. I planted this winner in a prominent photo location and looking through all of the images, it looks spectacular in every shot — filter or not! I knew we needed plants that would look great through hot, dry days and heavy traffic and ‘Asian Garden’ delivered. I love how wild and wooly the flowers are by fall — great transition into Halloween!
Artemisia 'Quicksilver' (Proven Winners), Kansas State University
The hot and dry portion of the summer did not phase this artemisia one bit. Exhibiting incredible vigor, the plants kept expanding beyond the plot borders. The silvery foliage was attractive all season long and never wilted or flopped over.
Bidens Bee Alive (Ball Floraplant), Smith Gardens
Bee Alive flowers for all season long here in the Northwest with little to no deadheading required. The two-tone flower pops against the dark foliage. It’s not compact and not overly aggressive either.
Portulaca ColorBlast Mango Mojito (Westflowers), Mast Young Plants
This new bicolor portulaca was extremely eye-catching and flowered throughout the summer. This variety was another visitor favorite.
Ornamental Pepper ‘Sedona Sun’ (PanAmerican Seed), North Carolina State University
This ornamental pepper lives up to its name, ‘Sedona Sun’. The golden glow of the Arizona desert sun is called to mind when looking at this plant. The small conical-shaped fruit start out white, progress to yellow and then to orange. Be careful if you eat this fruit – it is hot. Each plant provides a mass of color well into the fall.
Catharanthus Soiree Kawaii Coral Pink (Suntory Flowers), Costa Farms
Good performance in the garden during dry and wet periods of time. Very floriferous, very attractive.
Best drought-tolerant perennial
Agastache ‘Mango Tango’ (Proven Winners), Walters Gardens
This plant shines on its own, and its drought tolerance is merely the icing on the cake. The habit is compact and round with a rich, mango-orange flower color. At a closer look, flowers are light peach to dusky orange with dusky rose calyxes.
Perovskia Blue Steel (Kieft Seed), The Gardens at Ball
A rockstar performer that took what the season dished out and still looked great.
Perovskia Caspian Blue (Green Fuse Botanicals), Mast Young Plants
This Russian sage from is more compact than many, and had a ton of large blue flowers.
Carex x Feather Falls (Pacific Plug & Liner), Smith Gardens
This new variety of Carex is spectacular. It can handle sun or shade as well as wet feet and dry feet. Feather Falls fills the pot nicely and is a great addition to perennial borders.
Mandevilla ‘Sun Parasol’ (Suntory Flowers), Costa Farms
Grows year around in Miami. Likes and performs best under drought.
Best pollinator-friendly annual
Gomphrena ‘Ping Pong’ (Sakata Seed America), The Ohio State University
Gomphrena made OSU’s top-3 pollinator list, which was determined by four weeks of evaluations where observers counted all the pollinators present for 1 minute.
Salvia Mystic Spires Blue (Ball FloraPlant), The Gardens at Ball
Mystic Spires was always covered in bees and butterflies. A magnet!
Verbena Endurascape Pink Bicolor (Ball FloraPlant), Boerner Botanical Gardens
With so many pollinator options this year in the gardens, this was one of the standouts. It didn’t have the summer burnout as many Verbenas often do. The continual blooms made it a favorite of bumblebees and Monarch butterflies.
Canna 'Cannova Mango' (Ball Ingenuity), Kansas State University
These easy-growing cannas put on prolific blooms that the bees loved visiting. The unique mango color is simply beautiful and the plants are a great addition to any landscape.
Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Mesa Red’ (PanAmerican Seed), Iowa State University
‘Mesa Red’ is the newest addition to the family, and all of them are super popular with bees, butterflies, and many other things with wings! If you passed this collection of flowers in early summer, you couldn’t help but hear the hum of many insects congregating and collecting. Intimidating for many, but also inspiring in the effort to attract and support our pollinator population.
Angelonia Alonia ‘Big Indigo’ (Danziger), Plantpeddler Trial Garden
Bees loved this plant. Out of the 1,000 pots we had in our gardens, this plant ranked the highest with our bees. Impressive indigo-colored spikes work well for height in combos or flower beds, as it does well in both conditions. It was also loved by people as it was picked in the top-15 at our Variety Days this year.
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel’ (Takii), Costa Farms
Very floriferous, long flowering window, a true attraction for pollinators.
Asclepias Monarch Promise (Hort Couture), C. Raker & Sons
These were planted all over our landscape and were constantly covered in bees and other pollinators.
Salvia splendens Grandstand (Green Fuse Botanicals), Smith Gardens
The Grandstand series was covered in flowers this past spring through summer. Hummingbirds and bees alike flocked to this plants 6-inch tall flower spikes. Great in the garden as well as makes an excellent center piece to planters.
Lantana ‘Bandana Landscape’ (Syngenta Flowers), Costa Farms
Floriferous, long flowering window, very showy and attracts pollinators.
Best pollinator-friendly perennial
Monarda 'MO 011' (Dümmen Orange), North Carolina State University
Monardas are known for being pollinator-friendly but this one was exceptionally friendly. It is still in the experimental phase, but one to keep a watch on.
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (North Creek Nurseries), South Dakota State University
These are great plants for the last of the Monarchs to catch a snack on before their long migration south, as well as a food source for the butterflies that linger here in the fall, like this painted lady.
Best heat-tolerant annual
SunPatiens Tropical Rose (Sakata), Plantpeddler Trial Gardens
Great performing variety during the heat of the summer in Iowa. Loves the full sun and high temperatures. The variegated foliage and hot pink flowers are outstanding in flower beds and large landscape projects. Big plant, big color. Picked in the top five favorite plants in the trial gardens.
Alternanthera Purple Prince (PanAmerican Seed), Young’s Plant Farm
The Alternanthera is exciting because it is from seed, it lasted all summer long, held its deep purple-red color, and compact in size. It is perfect for the front of a landscape bed.
Impatiens hybrida ‘Bounce Pink’ (Selecta), Iowa State University
We had three of the Bounce series in trials this year (violet, bright coral and pink) and all three were stars through a very hot, dry summer! The pink variety didn’t show any sign of fading (and coral and violet kept their colors fairly nicely too). While other plants nearby slowed flower production and overall growth, the Bounce series continues to impress! They can brighten up any shaded area, but perform just as well in full sun.
Vinca Kawaii ‘Soiree Coral' (Suntory Flowers), Kansas State University
When the temperatures increased, these vinca came on strong. Despite the small petal size, the plants put out a tremendous amount of color and visitors loved the different look than the typical vinca.
Scaevola Surdivine Blue Violet (Suntory Flowers), Mast Young Plants
A new scaevola that has a great compact-mounded habit and very dark purplish-blue flowers.
Monarda SugarBuzz Cherry Pops (Proven Winners), Smith Gardens
This plant was definitely buzzing this summer. A great pollinator plant covered in hot pink flowers. Great powdery mildew resistance and has a nice compact habit.
Best heat-tolerant perennial
Pennisetum setaceum Fireworks (Proven Winners), Mast Young Plants
Fireworks is a variegated form of fountain grass that starts flowering in mid to late summer. The striking foliage and plumes look great in beds, in containers by themselves, or in combinations with other plants.
Coreopsis Uptick Gold and Bronze (Darwin Perennials), Costa Farms
Loves the heat, continue to flower over the summer, did not show any signs of heat stress.
Petunia Amore Queen of Hearts (Danziger), Mast Young Plants
This new petunia in the Amore series did extremely well everywhere we had it in the trial gardens this summer, whether in containers or in beds. The striking bicolor red and yellow flowers with the heart-patterned petals drew a lot of attention from our visitors.
Dianthus ‘Paint the Town Fuchsia’ (Proven Winners), Walters Gardens
This is a new series of Dianthus is prized especially for its performance in hot and humid summers. The bright flower color is perfect for a pop of color in early summer. Single, serrated fuchsia flowers have lavender centers. Flowers completely cover the foliage like a blanket when it’s in peak.
Best overall performance – annual
French Marigold Fireball (PanAmerican Seed), The Gardens at Ball
This plant still looks great in The Gardens, even with the temperature change. It performed well even in our extremely humid summer.
Geranium Brocade Cherry Night (Dümmen Orange), Smith Gardens
This variety got a lot of attention in our gardens this year. The contrast of the hot pink flowers against the dark foliage is striking. It looked great in the pot for retail and it looked amazing in the garden.
Begonia Vermillion Red (Beekenkamp), Raker Trial Gardens
This was placed into a hanging basket and it was a showstopper all summer. It was covered in long-lasting bright red flowers well after the other baskets around it were spent.
Angelonia angustifolia ‘Archangel Cherry Red’ (Ball Floraplant), Iowa State University
It is eye-catching from afar and has great dark detail in the throat when you get up close and personal. Strong, upright habit and it really lasts through summer with little pressure from pests, heat or drought.
Mecardonia Magic Carpet Yellow (Sakata Seed America), Costa Farms
Great ground cover, with green foliage and yellow flowers. Looks good for months and months.
Begonia Angel Falls Soft Pink (Beekenkamp), Plantpeddler Trial Gardens
Large trailing pink flowers over lush green cascading foliage. A beautiful hanging begonia that withstood almost everything Mother Nature threw at it. It handled full sun to part sun and stayed in color through it all. Hot, cool, humid, dry: a plant for all seasons. Picked in the top-15 of annuals at out Variety Days 2016.
Scaevola aemula ‘Scala Bicolor Blue 01’ (Dümmen Orange), North Carolina State University
Uniform plants with total flower coverage make this beautiful purple-blue fan flower a must have for all gardeners. All-season flowering.
Coleus Under the Sea, Sea Urchin Copper (Hort Couture), Kansas State University
The miniature nature of this coleus makes it perfect for containers. The compact plants were full and attractive at every point in the season. The copper and chartreuse colors on the leaves were a striking combination and they practically glowed in the part-shade. The plants never bloomed, allowing no distractions from the foliage.
Salvia Velocity Blue (Syngenta Flowers), Mast Young Plants
This tender perennial flowered all season for us in the gardens. The season-long performance combined with the large, dark blue flowers and strong habit make this plant ideal for landscape use but it also shines in combinations with other varieties.
Petunia Supertunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners), South Dakota State University
Petunia Supertunia Vista Bubblegum has consistently been our best-performing petunia and I would have to say that it is the most impressive annual this year, once again. It is extremely floriferous in large containers and performs nearly as well when planted in the ground. There are literally so many flowers that the foliage is seldom visible.
Gerbera Garvinea, Sweet Memories (Florist), Young’s Plant Farm
This Gerbera flowered all summer long with large, bright pink flowers held high above the foliage. We tested it in the ground and in containers and Sweet Memories was awesome in both.
Best overall performance – perennial
Coreopsis UpTick, Gold & Bronze (Darwin Perennials), Boerner Botanical Gardens
Neat, full mound with flowers held high. The unique color combination looks great from a distance.
Angelonia angustifolia ‘Archangel Cherry Red’ (Ball Floraplant), Iowa State University
I heard a lot of great compliments on this bright pink entry. Angelonia is slowly gaining momentum as a popular annual and I think this is another outstanding color option. It was eye-catching from afar and has great dark detail in the throat when you get up-close and personal. Strong, upright habit and it lasts through summer with little pressure from pests, heat, or drought. I love how simple and clean the foliage is and because it is so wonderful, [that] it really lets the flowers shine.
Baptisia DECADENCE ‘Lemon Meringue’ (Proven Winners), South Dakota State University
[This variety] has been an awesome perennial for us for the last several years. It is quick to emerge in the spring, then puts on its glorious display of bright yellow flower spikes, nicely contrasted by the darker stems. The blue-green foliage is clean, stands up to our South Dakota winds and looks great all summer long.
Heuchera PRIMO ‘Black Pearl’, (Proven Winners), Walters Gardens
You’ll be impressed by how quickly this Heuchera finishes! This new black leafed Coral Bells was chosen for its shiny black, scalloped leaves and vigorous performance. The vigor translates to a fast finishing pot, finishing a trade gallon in as little as six weeks.
LED plant lighting has opened up new opportunities for producing plants. As with any emerging technology, improvements in equipment design, energy efficiency and plant growth are continually being introduced. With greater production, fixture costs are coming down.
With significant ongoing research by manufacturers, universities and growers, the application of these new lights to improve plant growth and timing are helping the industry in an important area of production.
To date, there are many areas of production that can benefit from LED lighting. Seedling production, supplemental light to meet daily light integral requirements, photoperiod control for timing and multi-layer production are just a few. Most growers should be experimenting to see how the technology might fit into their operation.
The following considerations may help you sort through the many manufacturers and the options that are available.
There are many sizes of lighting fixtures, from ones that will illuminate a few plants to those that are more than 600 watts and are equivalent to 1000-watt HID lights. Although there is less heat produced than from fluorescent or HID lighting, there is still considerable heat. In the best fixtures, the bulbs are mounted to a metal core circuit board that has fins to dissipate the heat, and fans or blowers to remove the heat. This extends the life.
As the plant area has high humidity, the fixtures should be designed to work in this environment. A small profile that limits shading is also desired if the fixtures will be used in a greenhouse.
LED bulbs are transistors that operate on DC electric current. The most efficient fixtures are those that have a constant current driver circuit. Less expensive fixtures use a constant voltage driver that can lead to early failure of the unit. Bulb size can vary from ½ watt to 5 watts or more. Low wattage bulbs produce less light and many more are required increasing fixture cost and maintenance.
As the most appropriate measure of photosynthesis is photon efficiency (µmol/joule), LED fixtures should be compared on this basis. Tests by J.A. Nelson and B. Beebe at Oregon State University have shown that there are large differences between fixtures from different manufacturers. Test results show that where overhead lighting is needed, HID fixtures may be more cost effective.
As with most products, quality of components and assembly determine life.
This is a key to a successful lighting setup. The more uniform the light at plant level, the more uniform the crop. Reflector design and material and spacing of the bulbs determine this. Reflectors can be designed to provide a concentrated pattern or a wide pattern. Before purchasing fixtures, request a distribution printout from the manufacturer. This testing should be done by an independent, certified testing lab. Most manufacturers have a computer program that will provide a light pattern showing the number and spacing of the fixtures for your growing area. Usually there are more fixtures required around the perimeter than in the center of the area.
One advantage to using LED bulbs is that it is easier to adjust the light spectrum that the plants receive. In fact, many manufacturers have switching that will give at least three different spectrums. Red and blue bulbs are the predominant colors as they are more efficient in electricity use, but almost any color may be included. A combination of 5 to 20 percent blue with the rest being red has worked well for many plants. This is an area of research that has considerable potential for future production. Individual species may do better with one spectrum than another. Another research area is looking at using pulsed light to drastically reduce energy input. To follow research on LED lighting check out at the following websites. Michigan State University – leds.hrt.msu.edu/FAQs and Purdue University – ag.purdue.edu/lopezlab
John is an agricultural engineer, an emeritus extension professor at the University of Connecticut and a regular contributor to Greenhouse Management. He is an author, consultant and certified technical service provider doing greenhouse energy audits for USDA grant programs in New England.