Brian Weesies

Mast Young Plants’ general manager discusses managing a trial garden, important plant characteristics and more.

Photo courtesy of Brian Weesies

Greenhouse Management: Since the pandemic began, how have, if at all, you and your team at Mast Young changed how you approach trials?

Brian Weesies: One thing we’ve changed that we’ve not switched back is offering visitors a lunch, especially during the open house week. We would cook burgers or brats or whatever and have a regular full lunch spread. When COVID hit, we stopped doing that and said, “Hey, we have cold water, pop, some packaged snacks,” and that was hard for our customers because we’d been serving food for about 15 years. Some people would plan their list around lunch time. ... Another one — and this is a good one and something I want to keep doing — is that we do a lot more videos and progress reports and updates. Initially we did that because we just knew not as many people would come and wanted people to still have access. We hadn’t really thought about it before [the pandemic], but we decided we had to do it and I hope we continue it.

GM: Are there any certain plant characteristics you are currently most drawn to right now?

BW: I would say, broadly speaking, what people are being drawn to are plants that last longer through the whole summer. Not so much color trends, but more plant durability or longevity in the garden or even in a container. We trial a lot of mixed containers. After Labor Day, we post on social media about our ‘Summer Survivors’ — these are baskets that last. We take good care of them and there are some that just give up in the summer and aren’t attractive anymore after Labor Day. But you’ll find a group of 20 that stay gorgeous all summer. I see people always being drawn to that. For instance, we offer hundreds of different petunias, but people are asking which one lasts all summer or which one looks good in June and September.

GM: Is this a new trend you’re seeing or something that’s been around for a while?

BW: I would say look back to the beginning of SunPatiens or even going back quite a ways to something like Dragon Wing begonias. Those are plants that are gorgeous summer performers that are a little trickier to have out in the garden center in the spring. I say you’re going to have to sell people by saying, “Trust me and you’ll come back next year and want to do this again.” As breeding improved, all of those plants hold up really well. And as people see them in the garden, and maybe they have SunPatiens figured out, maybe they want petunias that will last. And now there are ones that last. The next frontier might be verbena — they are traditionally more of a spring plant, a cool season plant. But all the breeders are starting to breed for [longevity].

November 2022
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