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Ask the Experts - Perennials

Jim Devereux, vice president of Green Fuse Botanicals, discusses the First Light Perennial line and its benefits for growers.

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April 20, 2020

Greenhouse Management: What sets the First Light Perennial line apart from others?

Jim Devereux: Green Fuse was the first perennial plant company, first breeder tech to actively breed for both daylight neutrality and no vernalization requirements. All perennials naturally have either one or both needs to be chilled, which means they need to go through a winter before they’re able to initiate a flower. Or, they require a set number of day length hours to bloom. In our expansive perennial line, we remove both of those necessities from perennial production.

For example, you can grow a zone hardy perennial and there’s no restrictions for lighting or for cooling. This has been a class changer because traditionally, growers would bring in the cutting in July, August, September or October grow the plant to size; put it into cold storage or a cold greenhouse to give it the required number of chilling hours and place it into a warm climate under lights to grow it in time to sell in May. With our breeding program, you can bring in the cutting week three or four, root it, transplant it and it’ll come into flower just based on temperature.

GM: How does this process help growers?

JD: The grower of the First Light Perennials will save on an average between 12 and 20 weeks of production time. Not only do they save all that time, they save all that labor; they save all the input. Also, no matter how good of a grower you are, you’re always going to kill stuff if you overwinter it. It’s just the name of the game, and with that said, you also greatly minimize your loss. Plus, we don’t charge a premium for it. Our Leucanthemum costs about the same as anyone else’s Leucanthemum, which we’re really known for because we have so many different sizes and flower formations and all of them maintain that no day length requirements and no cooling requirements.

GM: What additions can breeders expect in the upcoming year?

JD: For this coming year, we have two items that have never been seen before in the floriculture industry. One is a hydrangea. It’s a Zone 5 hardy hydrangea so it’s a true perennial, but all hydrangeas have always required about 22 weeks of cooling before they flower. So no matter what, if you get a hydrangea from an unrooted cutting, your total production time is about 45 weeks to grow it. This also means that when you sell a hydrangea, you sell it for a lot of money to offset production time. Our hydrangea from an unrooted cutting, however, will bloom with zero cooling, and doesn’t require any set daylight. And, from a cutting to a flower is 13 to 15 weeks. So, we’re saving that grower about 30 weeks of production time on that crop.

Rudbeckia Dakota Gold is another First light product. It’s traditionally an annual and has always been done by seed. But because they will never initiate until the longest day of the year — June 22 — you never see them for sale until September or October when your consumer traffic is very low. With that, you never know how the weather will be depending on where you are. So you grow those crops crossing your fingers. But our new Dakota series is completely daylight neutral with no cooling requirements and is the first ever zone hardy Rudbeckia Dakota Gold.