Suntory’s ‘Princettia Queen Pink’ and Dümmen Orange’s ‘Tapestry’ were among top performers at N.G. Heimos’ poinsettia trial open house, while Syngenta's ‘Mirage Red’ was the top red variety at Plantpeddler’s variety day. ‘Superba Glitter’ from Lazzeri was a top hit at both trials. Read on to see more favorites from the trials:
As part of her research for a graduate degree in horticulture, Mary Hausbeck was conducting a geranium cultivar evaluation when Pythium became a problem in the greenhouse.
Spraying silver ethyl sulfate on the foliage to prevent petal shatter in the seeded geraniums appeared to make the problem worse: within days after the foliar application, plants infected with Pythium died. Other plant pathologists at Michigan State University were being contacted about similar issues in local greenhouses.
Hausbeck started researching whether the application of silver ethyl sulfate did prompt an enhanced Pythium infection and her interest in the disease has continued across the decades. Now, as a distinguished professor and extension specialist at Michigan State University, Hausbeck continues researching the damaging fungus.
Greenhouse Management: What new discoveries have been made since you started studying Pythium in the 1980s?
Mary Hausbeck: Each year, my lab runs new trials to determine if there are new fungicides or biocontrol products that can be helpful.
There have been a lot of new fungicide products released to address the group of water molds, including Pythium. We’ve made big advances with products to control Phytophthora and downy mildew, but they are “B-team” players that are not as good as older products like Subdue and Truban. So, there is still work to do.
Recently, we sampled and tracked Pythium problems across some of the major floriculture crops and were able to determine which Pythium types were affecting these crops and which of the Pythium types tend to become resistant to fungicides.
GM: What are some of the challenges to treating Pythium?
MH: The first challenge is to make sure the problem is accurately diagnosed. We also don’t have as many “new” products that are highly effective against Pythium root rot, which can lead to overuse of the products that have been available for many years, which leads to another challenge of Pythium developing resistance if fungicides are overused. Timing treatments is an important consideration because once the infection is established, it’s more difficult to turn the treatment around.
GM: How can greenhouse growers manage the disease and prevent it from spreading?
MH: For root rot pathogens like Pythium, keeping the headhouse and production areas clean is very important.
Pythium is very good, actually, at staying in greenhouses, in soil particles, in the dust of a greenhouse. Due diligence needs to be done between crops when there are opportunities to do some deep cleaning.
Growers have to think about sanitation as a two-step process: the first step is making sure that the surfaces are clean, which means using a pressure washer, picking up and sweeping up materials, dislodging soil and plant residue from plant benches and other structures, and hosing them down. The second step is sanitizing those clean surfaces because we know that surfaces can appear clean and still harbor some of these really resistant propagules. For that second step, we talk about time of contact. We want as much duration of contact with the sanitation material and the surface, and that means we’re not going to go in with a light spray, we’re going to go with a dousing where that surface is going to remain wet with the sanitizing agent for as long as we can manage. Increasing the time of contact with any pathogen that’s residing on that surface increases the likelihood that that pathogen is going to succumb to the sanitation agent. A light spray that dries immediately isn’t going to do it.
GM: How does Pythium affect bedding plants in the greenhouse before they enter the landscape?
MH: These root rots can make the plant less vigorous, making establishment more difficult. If plants are under stress due to disease, the stress associated with transplanting and the landscape environment may reduce the quality and aesthetics of the plantings. The plants might not grow as large as they should or flower as profusely.
GM: What should growers know about the plants that they sell to landscapers, which may be subject to certain diseases once they’re in the landscape?
MH: It’s helpful for landscapers to know that some of the newer fungicides are highly effective and long-lasting against pathogens [and] applying certain fungicides to plants while in the greenhouse, prior to being placed in the landscape, can help provide protection in the landscape.
I like the idea of growers treating for Pythium, applying a drench of a good Pythium product before those geraniums and other ornamentals are sent out of that greenhouse for establishment in the landscape bed.
GM: If we talked again in five years, what would be the ideal advances you’d like to discuss in Pythium research and treatment?
MH: I’d like to be able to say that we have new options for growers either along the lines of traditional chemistry or biopesticides that have a reduced impact to the environment. In a perfect world, we’d have a program where growers could choose a more traditional program or a hybrid program that allows them to do some [chemicals] but also take advantage of the biologicals. Maybe we can get there in the next five years.
The author spent a decade working for a greenhouse grower before becoming a freelance journalist.
The idea of using GPS to find our way from A to B is still not very old. Most of us have had some interesting experiences with those early models, such as when my machine proudly declared that I was at my destination when I was actually sitting in the middle of six lanes of north Atlanta traffic. Fortunately, modern GPS is more accurate and can access real-time information about road restrictions, roadwork, accidents and other hazards. For most of us, these issues are inconvenient but to a trucking company, detours cost money and make disgruntled customers.
Transporting live plant material involves not just the best route for drivers, but the best times for plants to arrive when the retail operations can accept them. For decades, this task was done with pen and paper, and involved many hours of planning.
For Weatherford Farms in Stafford, Texas, co-owner Bridget Weatherford says the delivery schedules were previously set manually, and during busy holiday times, things got hectic — fully laden trucks had as many as 20 stops to make in the Houston area. Those days of manual planning came to an end when the grower switched to Paragon Software Systems, a routing and scheduling software program.
“Before we went to Paragon’s system, drivers complained about arriving at a site only to find another driver already there,” Weatherford says.
This is what truck route optimization is all about. It is a computer program that takes the real-time data for where and when delays are likely along a driver’s entire route, as well as the best truck route for each vehicle to take for deliveries. With this data input to the computer, the program delivers the route in minutes, not days. Some people talk about the route optimization programs as being the first major improvement to the trucking industry in many years.
Florida-based Costa Farms has several locations around the country where they grow tropical plants for the consumer market. The grower uses software from CACI Truckstops, helping them find routes for their trucks, which in the high season can number more than 200 trucks on the road at a time. Ryan MacFarland, Costa Farms’ vice president of supply chain management, says the optimization program found routes for all of the trucks for three days in under 90 minutes.
Truck route optimization is typically a modular system that is installed on the site computer and designs routes that include all delivery points along with an assigned delivery time. The scheduling manager plugs in all the variable times and locations and gets a route that includes all those points, in minutes, not hours. These routes can be printed for the driver or delivered via an app on their phone.
Transporting live plant material involves not just the best route for drivers, but the best times for plants to arrive when the retail operations can accept them. Instead of manually planning routes on paper, truck route optimization software creates more efficient deliveries.
Adam Rowe, technology writer for Tech.co, comments that KeepTruckin, another fleet management software company, “offers both hardware units and the software to go with them, including a manager dashboard and driver mobile app. KeepTruckin uses an open API for their software, ensuring that any third-party routing service can be integrated with the KeepTruckin dashboard.”
Willy Maurer, Costa Farms’ director of logistics, adds that both software and updated driver information regarding problems is updated on the office computer and the driver’s module is updated before the next trip.
The industry relies on having a great relationship with customers, which is tested at times when deliveries arrive at an unscheduled time and when staff cannot reasonably accept them. An irate customer relays their issues to the driver, which in turn makes that driver’s job satisfaction plummet. Truck route optimization allows wholesale operations to plug in multiple destinations along with preferred time for acceptance, which, when met, is great for customer relations and increases the job satisfaction of the driver. This last point is important in an industry where turnover of drivers is high. According to the National Private Truck Council, driver retention is an important issue, so having routes that create happy customers and drivers that return home at a reasonable time is a benefit to everyone. Fewer miles traveled also makes your business more environmentally friendly.
Additionally, Pierre Netty at CACI Truckstops says that although most trucks are full of plants for each run, with traditional routing this can be as low as 60%, which wastes space. Often with the optimization, not only will the trucks arrive at the locations on time, but they can also make more stops, which means the trucks can carry more plants per trip. Truckstops estimates that with proper routing, the fill rate rises from 65% to 95%.
Good software is carefully built to include industry best practices to ensure that drivers take sufficient breaks from the road, and the ELD government mandate (Electronic Logging Device) makes sure that they do.
Weatherford Farms co-owner Bridget Weatherford says Paragon Software produces accurate routes that allow for the variation in orders and delivery times, even during the busy holiday season when the grower may have double the number of orders.
“An ELD is a device that automatically records certain data elements at a set interval. These elements include date, location, time, engine hours and vehicle miles, as well as identification information for the driver, vehicle, authenticated user and motor carrier,” Rowe says.
With a cyclical business like the green industry, many companies opt to hire the trucks and lease them by the day. The route that these trucks take and how long the lease lasts is a major investment each year. Having the trucks cover the distance efficiently and with fewer miles has a big impact on the bottom line of the business. Fortunately, most of the modern fleet trucks already have compatible systems so that your optimization program of choice will interface correctly.
Regarding the future of truck optimization programs, look for your ordering programs to be integrated with the truck optimization programs, says William Salter, managing director at Paragon Software Systems. This enables the trucks to be filled in the correct sequence for delivery without exceeding the weight limits. So, no more last-minute adjustments that delay the start of the trucks’ route.
The author is a freelance writer based in South Carolina.
As business owners, it’s helpful to evaluate where you are as a leader and organization. Are you stressed? Feeling overworked? Focused on the negative with yourself, your business, employees or customers? If so, your team is probably stressed and critical, and you’re most likely experiencing employee and customer turnover.
Or … are you grateful for the business you own or lead? Are you appreciative of your vendors, customers and staff and all they bring to the table? Better yet, are you regularly expressing gratitude and appreciation to those around you?
I’ve long stated, “As the leader goes, so goes the team.” Whether positive or negative, your attitude and leadership permeate your workplace and greatly impact productivity and profitability.
If you haven’t already keyed into gratitude and appreciation, it’s time to consider their effects on individuals as well as your business.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” It also defines appreciation as “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.”
Gratitude and appreciation are good for your business. They help you attract and retain outstanding employees. Furthermore, individuals indicate they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. Earn a reputation as someone who values and acknowledges hard work, and people will want to work for you.
Gratitude also positively benefits individuals. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, research indicates gratitude can “lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide … Grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence.” Read more here.
Lastly, gratitude builds trust and engenders customer loyalty. Buyers choose where they do business, and it’s far easier to retain them than to continually find new ones. Think how you feel when a business you utilize knows your name, says thank you, offers perks and lets you know of things ahead of the general public.
The following are ways to cultivate a gratitude attitude:
Look for the positive. It’s always there, even when things go wrong. Make a mistake and you can beat yourself up, or you can be grateful that you are wiser and ready for the next time. Teach your employees to do the same and you’ll reap the rewards of a growth culture.
Focus on what is working. If the vast majority of your business is working well, the majority of your words should center around what is effective.
When the positive receives attention, it gets repeated. Additionally, if you focus on the positive, when you need to address a problem, it’s far easier for others to hear and be invested in fixing it.
Say thank you. It costs virtually nothing to say thank you. Failure to express gratitude however, negatively impacts employees, customers and your bottom line.
Regularly identify at least three things you’re grateful for. Each time you do, you move yourself into a more productive zone. On tough days, your list may be water, air and shelter. It’s even more effective when you choose to focus on the people who work for and with you, and the customers who keep your doors open.
In addition to improving your well-being, expressing gratitude and appreciation to bosses, peers, management, employees, suppliers and customers, ensures your stake-holders feel valued. That’s a leadership game-changer every time.
Greenhouse Management: Why do global consumers continue to buy and plant hydrangea?
Peter Kolster: Our nursery has been growing hydrangeas since I was 16 years old. We started with garden plants, then got into cut flower breeding. Gardeners love the large flowers and the flower colors. We found that consumers really loved the antique colors (we call them classic colors in Europe) and the hard flowers. We started working with another breeder, Horteve Breeding, who was breeding gift plants. And that’s a market the European consumer really loved. In the U.S. we launched the Everlasting Series of hydrangea. The flowers change colors throughout the growing season and can be shades of many colors, depending on the cultivar. These flowers can also be cut and brought inside and last for a long time.
Everlasting Revolution is a short plant, growing to about 2 or 3 feet high. Consumers can use it in the garden or in a container outdoors or put it in a pot and place it indoors in spring and it still looks good in November. We also found that the Revolution varieties are sterile. Another plus for consumers and growers is that the Revolution plants can grow with less water because of their waxy leaves and flowers.
GM: Which characteristics do you require when breeding hydrangea?
PK: Before we introduce a plant to the market, we focus on certain traits. The plant must not need support to stay upright, it must have a strong root system and it must have hard flowers. Our hydrangeas are good for the consumer for their looks and garden performance; for the grower because of their root system; and for the retailer because of the long shelf life — with proper watering, of course.
GM: What’s your next breeding goal?
PK: We’re looking at breeding for red leaves, which will make a lovely and unique plant. And we’re looking at hydrangeas that will be suitable in hanging baskets.
GM: What’s the next big thing in hydrangea breeding?
Michael A. Dirr: I’ll talk about the next big thing in hydrangeas to anyone who will listen. Remontancy/reblooming opened the floodgates of enthusiasm for H. macrophylla. Every breeder/introducer played the same tune with varying degrees of success. The Endless Summer brand dominates and will for the foreseeable future. Many of the H. macrophylla imports from Europe and Japan were promoted as remontant and have already disappeared from the market. I believe a cold hardy (Zone 4/5) macrophylla that flowers reliably every year would be transformational, whether remontant or not. I know this is possible based on H. serrata genotypes that have flowered with no stem dieback after exposure to -35°F. The two species are easily hybridized, and this was already a goal of our former company, Plant Introductions, Inc. Jeff Beasley, Mark Griffith and I have started a new PII, Premier Introductions, Inc., with the goal of cold-hardy macrophyllas looming large.
GM: Why do hydrangeas resonate with the consumer?
MD: Everyone recognizes the brilliant orbs of blue and pink. I posit the question to growers, gardeners and people on the street: When you hear the word hydrangea, what does the mind conjure? Almost always, heavenly blue spheres. Ask the same question about a viburnum and there is no answer.
GM: Can growers continue to capitalize on this crop?
MD: Absolutely. At the recent Georgia Green Industry Association trade show, I was told that a major retailer ordered one million Summer Crush for 2021. At present, there is greater focus on hydrangea breeding/procurement in the U.S. than at any time in history. The major nurseries like Bailey and Spring Meadow support hydrangea breeding programs. Monrovia, under the leadership of Jonathan Pedersen, acquire hydrangea genetics from other breeders and build new brands such as the Seaside Serenade series. Southern Living added several H. paniculata selections to the brand. These were developed by Buddy Lee, who has worked almost exclusively with PDSI and Flowerwood Nursery. I am in contact with a private breeder in Virginia who has a boat load of pretty H. paniculata hybrids. There is demand and the breeders are trying to accommodate. The industry has benefited mightily from the advances in hydrangea breeding. There will be introductions never dreamed possible. In fact, scientists in China successfully produced interspecific hybrids of H. macrophylla x H. arborescens with fertile offspring.
Tim Wood, breeder, author and new plant development manager at Spring Meadow Nursery
GM: What breeding breakthroughs should we expect in the near future?
Tim Wood: In my opinion, the next step is moving beyond reblooming Hydrangea macrophylla onto continuous blooming H. serrata hybrids. They have greater stem and bud hardiness so they’re more likely to flower in late spring and summer. This breeding has also brought us plants like Let’s Dance Cancan hydrangea, which seems to flower even without vernalization. Growers can shift up a trimmed quart liner into a 2 gallon and sell it in bloom in about 10-12 weeks. These types of plants should be big winners for growers and consumers alike.
GM: Why does this crop continue to woo both growers and consumers?
TW: The breeding keeps getting better and better. When Bailey introduced Endless Summer, it was a game changer. There were about 100 non-reblooming bigleaf hydrangea varieties on the market, but Endless Summer was just the beginning and now every form and color needs to be transformed into a rebloomer, or better yet a continuous bloomer. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ has been reinvented with the introduction of the Invincibelle series, and now we have five different flower colors and a choice of smaller, dwarf varieties. Who could have imagined this 20 years ago? H. paniculata keeps getting better with the introduction of earlier blooming dwarfs such as Bobo and Little Quick Fire. The new pink and the red flowered varieties are getting better, too. They color up earlier, with richer colors and have improved, stronger habits. Growers will especially appreciate how good these new varieties present and hold up their blooms in a container at retail. Everything keeps getting better.
GM: How can growers continue to capitalize on the crop’s popularity?
TW: Breeders are creating outstanding plants with increased value. Growers and retailers can capitalize on these new plants by embracing change. We can sit around and complain about the pace of new plants, or we can make money selling them. To do that we must have the fortitude to drop the older and weaker growing, less profitable varieties. We do this in the perennial world, and we need to do it in the shrub world, too.