Karen E. Varga
Getting engaged. Having a baby. Buying a new home. Losing a loved one. These are all important moments in our lives, and we celebrate or mourn many of them with plants. The concept of connecting plants with life moments came up several times in this summer’s travels, including the European FlowerTrials, featured in our cover story this month.
At many of the stops, we saw this theme repeated in different ways. The most obvious example was at Florensis, where the entire stop was based around displays commemorating moments in the life of a 20- or 30-something fictional character, Fleur Longway, who even had her own Facebook page. Fleur had a tabletop “dream wedding” display that incorporated white calibrachoas and New Guinea impatiens, a sports area representing her hobbies, a landscaped cemetery plot giving a nod to those she’s lost and a showcase of the plants she’s put in the front yard of her first home.
I also saw this concept exemplified while in Denmark for the International Garden Centre Association Congress. We were at GASA GROUP, an international trading company that supplies European markets with floral products, where a wide variety of merchandising ideas and point-of-purchase options were on display. I chatted with one of their sales representatives, who told me that they develop some of these concepts with “life moments” in mind. For example, one collection was based around a “New Beginning” theme, while others focused on love and specific holidays.
The cover story in this issue is different than usual in that it incorporates perspectives on European FlowerTrials and other aspects of European horticulture from several women in the North American horticulture industry. I feel fortunate to have experienced this trip, organized by the all-women’s group Luxflora, and learn alongside these professionals for a week. Each woman had her own set of aspirations for the trip, from getting ideas for marketing materials to finding new plants to complement what they’re currently growing, but all of us came out feeling like we had not only learned a considerable amount, but also gained new friends. Turn to page 12 to read more about the trip.
Industry trends are driving growers to move away from “touch loads” and toward a rack loading system. For many growers, the “California stack” method of loading a truck is still the standard. This method entails stacking plant containers on top of other containers, using the rims of the pots to balance. The advantage to this system is its unprecedented payload. Growers can load the most product onto a truck using this method.
Gerson “Gary” Cortes, partner with FlowVision LLC, a green-industry consulting firm, identified shipping as an area with plenty of room for improvement for many growers. FlowVision focuses on finding ways to incorporate Lean Flow principles into green industry businesses. As part of that, Cortes researched the different methods as a way to optimize shipping. He believes the solution is an optimized rack loading system, paired with the dock supermarket concept. While the payload is 1.5 times more with a California stack method than racks, it typically takes four hours to load a 53-foot semi-truck, with multiple people working in the trailer. Some of the operations Cortes has helped are loading the same size truck in 30 minutes. Another problem with California stacks is the toll that higher payload takes on plant quality.
“When we do the California stack we can get a little more on the truck, but it takes longer to load and unload, for the customer, and you have more damage,” says Mark Luchtefeld, vice president of sales and marketing with Home Nursery, an Albers, Ill.-based wholesale grower that began using rack loading in February. Home Nursery was using a combination of California stack and wooden racks, depending on what exactly was being shipped.
Not every grower uses the California stack. Other growers ship plants using deck stacks, floor stacks or wooden pallets. Cortes says deck stacks offer 25 to 30 percent less payload capability than racks. Time is a problem because trucking companies want to work with companies that make it easy for them to do their jobs.
“Many nurseries have told us one of their biggest difficulties is that trucking companies are not dying to work with them,” Cortes says. “They waste a lot of time waiting for that truck to get loaded and unloaded.”
This problem has been exacerbated by the Department of Transportation’s adoption of electronic logs. Paper logs were entered manually by the truck’s driver, so it was easy to fudge or manipulate times, if a driver were so inclined. The new E-Logs track a driver’s time more closely, and according to the laws, drivers can’t exceed 11 hours of driving and 14 total hours of work, including drops.
“If they pull up to your nursery, and it takes you four or five hours to load, you’re eating into their driving time,” Cortes says. “They don’t want to be there waiting for you to load.”
Unrolling the idea
One of the key principles of Lean manufacturing is that a business needs to be flowing product and eliminating wasted time. If a grower is shipping 40 trucks a day, it needs to churn those docks to be efficient. But you can’t turn them quick because it takes so long to load. Racks can be staged ahead of time, so when the truck pulls in with the trailer, it can be loaded and out the door 30 minutes later.
Ann Tosovsky, Home’s president, was intrigued by the idea. She spoke with growers at a few other operations that had switched to rack loading, and visited Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan before fully buying in. Tosovsky brought the entire shipping crew together for a two-day training session.
“The training focused on understanding the concept behind Lean Flow and understanding what we’d be doing differently so they can get an understanding and have some input where applicable to the process,” she says.
The biggest change was how the nursery applied the racks to the pulling part of the order placing and shipping process to get the plant material up to the loading dock.
First, the plant is pulled out of the field onto a rack. That rack makes its way to the dock into what FlowVision refers to as a supermarket. Next, the nursery pulls the orders and places them on a different rack. That rack will go on the truck after it goes through an inspection process for quality control.
Although it’s only been a few months, Home Nursery is already noticing efficiency increases in several areas.
“Right now we’re seeing a good savings in pulling the plants up to the loading dock,” Luchtefeld says. “We’re seeing savings when we can rack everything. Loading the truck takes a lot less time. We see a savings in plant damage, and short counts.”
Racking up investment
Cortes says the two biggest investments for a grower looking to try rack loading are the racks, and the concrete they roll on. Many shipping docks are dirt or gravel, neither of which are conducive for the rolling racks that are key to the process.
Home Nursery still has work to do, but first it needs the right supplies. The wholesale grower needs more rolling racks to take the next step.
“We don’t have all the racks we need yet. They’re still being made. But once we get those, we get away from having forklifts,” Luchtefeld says. “We can pull them on the rack, bring them up through the dock sort through them in the supermarket process. Pick and put them on the rolling racks that will be shipped out.”
Luchtefeld says his customers have already said they’re looking forward to the new rolling racks because wooden racks are more difficult to unload if you don’t have a forklift. And if the nursery doesn’t come back for the wooden racks, the customer has to handle disposal, which usually means crushing it and putting it in their dumpster. The rolling racks will be tracked, reused and picked up regularly as part of the shipping schedule.
“Garden centers like the rolling racks because they can unload them right off the truck,” Luchtefeld says. “And if they have concrete aisles or blacktop, they can roll them to where they want to set them and sell them off the rack.”
It’s a process, and one that hasn’t even been around for a year. But the progress they’ve seen so far is encouraging.
Matt McClellan is Managing Editor of sister magazine Nursery Management.
Several species of whiteflies are pests of greenhouse vegetable and ornamental crops. The most common are greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum), silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia argentifolii) and sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci). Whiteflies are so named because the adults look like tiny white flies that flit around plant foliage. They are not flies but sucking insects more closely related to scales, aphids and mealybugs. This is evident when you examine the nymphs, which are translucent scale-like discs on the underside of leaves.
Most plant species can be fed on by some species of whitefly. Common ornamental hosts include poinsettia, gerbera, hibiscus, begonia and coleus. Whiteflies also feed on vegetable crops including cucumbers and herbs.
Whiteflies typically lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. Tiny crawlers hatch and settle on leaves and molt into immobile nymphs. They feed by inserting flexible hollow mouthparts into phloem tissue and sucking the sugary fluid. This results in light green or yellow chlorotic spots on the tops of leaves where nymphs are sucking out fluid below. Like other phloem feeders, whiteflies produce honeydew that leaves shiny patches on leaves where black, sooty mold can grow.
Whiteflies can persist in greenhouses year-round since they feed on so many plant species. They can also reproduce on many weeds inside or outside the greenhouse and on nearby field crops.
Monitor for adults using yellow sticky cards and by brushing plant foliage to watch for whiteflies that flit around and resettle. Scouting for nymphs is difficult and requires turning over leaves to look for the pests. Also look for shiny, sticky honeydew on leaves. Crops like poinsettia are prone to whitefly infestations, so scouting for adults, nymphs and damage is worthwhile.
As with all pests, prevent whiteflies from entering your greenhouse by screening greenhouse doors and vents. Inspect new plants and cuttings for whitefly adults and nymphs before bringing them into a greenhouse. Sanitation is the next line of defense to reduce whitefly abundance and damage. Whiteflies will reproduce on weeds so be sure to remove weeds from the inside and outside of greenhouses. High temperatures and over-fertilizing makes whiteflies and other sucking pests develop faster. So maintain only the temperature and fertilizer necessary to maximize crop performance.
here are several biological control agents available for whitefly management. Generalist predators like mirid bugs and lacewing larvae feed on many pest species including whiteflies and can help reduce pest pressure. The most common biological control agents for whiteflies are Encarsia and Eretmocerus parasitoids. These tiny wasps lay eggs inside or beneath whitefly nymphs. The wasp larvae then feed and develop within the nymph and emerge as an adult to kill more whiteflies. Pathogens like Beauveria bassiana are also good biological control options for whitefly management. Biological controls are best used preventively since they do not provide rapid suppression of large populations.
Many insecticides are available to include in your whitefly management program. Drenching with systemic insecticides can provide a baseline level of control. Remember that as plants grow they will be using up the insecticide in their tissue and in the soil. Thus, repeat drench applications as recommended on the label and after repotting to maintain efficacy. Foliar insecticides like insect growth regulators can also be used to clean up whitefly nymphs. Since whitefly nymphs are on the undersides of leaves and adults may fly outside of your spray area, assume you will not get them all. Continue monitoring and repeat applications as necessary. Rotate two or three products with different modes of action to reduce the development of insecticide resistance.
Steven D. Frank is Associate Professor and Extension Specialist at North Carolina State University. He conducts extension and research related to greenhouse pest management.
What we call “Fusarium” is really many different diseases clumped under the name of a fungal genus. Both systemic vascular wilt diseases (Fusarium wilts) and a miscellaneous assortment of root and stem infections — even some leaf spots — are caused by Fusarium fungi. The root and stem problems are more common but less serious than the wilts. Fusarium diseases can have lethal consequences under conditions that favor their attack.
The host-specialized Fusarium wilt fungi each affect only one crop, or very closely related plants. Aster, basil, begonia, carnation, chrysanthemum, cyclamen, dahlia, gerbera, gladiolus, lily, lisianthus, Marguerite daisy, exacum, ranunculus and tulip all have a Fusarium wilt disease. Propagators make heroic efforts to keep Fusarium out of the chain of production with their culture-indexing, monitoring and sanitation measures. Cyclamen is especially hard to produce free from its Fusarium wilt because the pathogen is seedborne. Spread of Fusarium wilt fungi is most common through vegetative propagation. The more omnivorous root and stem rot Fusarium pathogens may be spread by movement of invisibly-infected plants or by soil contamination of a growing mix (by workers or insects).
The species of Fusarium that cause root rots and stem rots (such as Fusarium solani or F. avenaceum) are common soil dwellers, and tend to have wide host ranges. The Fusarium wilt pathogens, on the other hand, are closely associated with the crops they can parasitize, and are more likely to arrive as latent infections within the xylem of cuttings rather than being blown or splashed in from the environment. Once Fusarium wilt has occurred in your greenhouse the pathogen is very talented at surviving in crop debris or soil on the floor — so the threat of disease can continue if there are no effective sanitation efforts.
Fusarium root and stem rots can strike at any time. These attacks are helped by fungus gnats or cultural actions that injure roots or stems. Fusarium wilts often become more obvious during higher growing temperatures (summer).
Monitoring for disease
Check your crop’s root health regularly: irregular heights may indicate root rot or stem cankers.
Watch for lower leaf yellowing or wilting that might indicate Fusarium wilt in a crop known to be susceptible.
One-sided wilting or a dark discoloration of the vascular system are clues that may indicate a Fusarium wilt disease.
A lab diagnosis will help you to know which kind of disease you are fighting.
Monitor fungus gnats, which may spread Fusarium species, using yellow sticky cards (adults) or potato chunks (larvae).
Prevention of disease
Have impeccable sanitation in your greenhouse, cleaning especially after a disease outbreak.
Avoid overfertilization or overwatering, which will injure roots and provide entry for Fusarium fungi that cause root and stem rot.
Manage fungus gnat populations that could aggravate Fusarium problems.
Order from the most reliable suppliers when purchasing plants susceptible to a Fusarium wilt disease: purchase clean stock for any crop for which it is available.
Treatment of disease when present
Dispose of diseased plants promptly.
Chemical control is often inadequate, especially for the wilts. Materials that suppress Fusarium somewhat include azoxystrobin, fludioxonil, iprodione, pyraclostrobin and thiophanate-methyl, as well as some biological controls.
For vascular wilts, try growing at a high pH (6.2 or above) and with nitrate rather than ammonium forms of nitrogen. This cultural scenario strongly suppresses Fusarium.
Margery Daughtrey is a plant pathologist specializing in ornamentals at Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research & Extension Center. She aims to help growers outwit diseases.
The summer conference season was as tightly packed as ever this year and it’s getting tougher and tougher to choose which events to invest in and attend. There are always some heavy hitters such as Cultivate and IGC Show; but tucked between many of the bigtime industry shows, you’ll find some real gems worth attending.
The Perennial Plant Symposium in Baltimore this year was one such event. As the Southern Regional Director for the organization, perhaps I may be a bit biased. Yet, I consistently find it to be one of the most fruitful conferences to attend. The PPA Symposium travels to different destinations each year in order to offer its attendees a unique perspective on design styles, plant palettes and local resources. While there was some initial hand-wringing by potential attendees about the location of the event, Baltimore proved to be a lovely, charming and unique destination and attendance at the event was up from last year.
Keeping it natural
One topic that seemed to be thinly represented at some of the larger industry shows this year was perennials. If you’re a perennial grower, garden center retailer or landscape designer, you may have found it tough to locate programs that were plant-centric enough to fit your perennial plant needs. The PPA Symposium balanced a solid lecture schedule with several tours designed to fit each discipline’s needs.
There was a definite focus on sustainability issues at this year’s symposium. Talk of integrating natural plantings in public spaces combined with water-saving and management design strategies was a prevalent theme. Basically, today’s landscape trends are all about creating the new public prairie.
Cassian Schmidt, of Hermannshof Gardens in Wheinheim, Germany, was a highlight at the event. He spoke on the “New German Style” and how his landscape installations are being transformed by his fascination with many North American perennial prairie plants. With a focus on sustainability and low-maintenance strategies, German plantings are aiming to match habitats with plants. The result brings a soft, natural and informal feel to the landscape.
As someone who grew up in Germany in the 80s, I can say Schmidt’s installations are quite the departure from the type of gardening and landscapes I remember. As a current resident of Texas, most of what Schmidt presented in his landscape trials and installations looks like what “Texas Style” has always been in the garden. Informal, native, habitat forming and water-wise. Quite the interesting dynamic.
The research Schmidt presented on his experimentation with measuring maintenance inputs for these prairie style plantings was also fascinating. For the past 15 years, Schmidt has painstakingly measured person-minutes per square meter for his perennial installations, a more than excellent value to any landscape designer, public gardener, municipal manager or maintenance company.
Perennials in public
The symposium started out with Patrick Cullina of Patrick Cullina Horticultural Design + Consulting, who examined key roles for herbaceous perennials in transformative public spaces. You may be familiar with Cullina’s innovative work on the New York High Line. Cullina’s talk focused on the potential for perennials to take on a bigger role in public spaces and landscapes, areas traditionally dominated by woody plants and hardscape structures. He showcased some truly dynamic projects utilizing perennials as their primary component. Again, the prairie/habitat garden style dominated.
Plant breeders and growers should be paying very close attention to these landscaping and gardening trends. Landscape professionals and home gardeners want less-formal plants; they want tall plants; and they want water-wise and native or adapted habitat plants.
There were many other inspiring programs throughout the week. But a big part of what makes the annual PPA event special is the intensive tour schedule. With grower, retailer and design tour tracts, there was something for everyone. Quality Greenhouses & Perennial Farm in Dillsburg, Pa. impressed with its ultra-clean and efficient set up; American Plant, a retail garden center in Bethesda, Md., showed off some serious merchandising skills and had us shopping. And we all fell in love with the unique almost-off-the-grid private home near Washington, D.C. that featured multi-layered green spaces built into the home plus a roof-top veggie garden. It was the perfect final stop.
A special highlight of the tour schedule was the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden at the Smithsonian in downtown Washington, D.C. The garden is managed by Horticulturist and PPA Mid-Atlantic Director Janet Draper. You know it’s a cool garden when everyone on the tour has to stop to take photos of every single plant in the garden. Camera batteries were put to the test.
PPA symposium 2016
The PPA sponsors student scholarships to attend the symposium each year, so if you have students who would like to attend, be sure they apply for next year. The PPA would also like to ease the cost for more young professionals to attend the symposium and are looking to craft new strategies for companies willing to partner up on such an endeavor.
The 2016 annual symposium will be held starting Aug. 1 near Minneapolis, Minn. It’s a beautiful time of year in that part of the country. There looks to be some excellent events, programs and gardens coming together for the symposium. If you reside in the south, you should check into the PPA Southern Region Symposium in Dallas, Oct. 5, 2015. This regional symposium will be focused on sustainability issues directly facing hot-climate growers, landscapers and retailers.
All-in-all, if your business has a focus on perennials, or is expanding its focus on perennials, the PPA Symposium is chock full of resources, key-person contacts, fresh inspiration and new friends.