February 2004

The Perennial Plant Association has named Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ the 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year.

This low-maintenance Japanese painted fern is a showy fern for shade gardens. It is popular because of its hardiness nearly everywhere in the United States, except for the desert and the northern areas of USDA Zone 3. Pictum grows 18 inches tall and can make a clump more then 2 feet wide when it multiplies. It produces 12- to 18-inch fronds that are a light shade of metallic silver gray with hints of red and blue. It prefers partial to full shade and works best in combination planters and landscape beds.

This fern needs a well-drained, compost-rich soil and flourishes where moisture and humidity abound. The best frond color results in light shade. The colors are more intense in the spring or in cooler temperatures or climates such as the Northwest. This fern is extremely reliable when grown in the proper conditions. Its colorful foliage should be vibrant from early spring until frost, when it will go dormant and reemerge in the spring.

The Perennial Plant of the Year was initiated in 1990. Each year, PPA members select a perennial that is suitable for a wide range of climate types, requires minimal maintenance, is easily propagated and exhibits multi-seasonal interest.

For more information visit www.perennialplant.org.

GCA Retailer and Supplier of the Year

Two important players in the independent garden center industry were honored at the Garden Centers of America National Conference of Independent Garden Centers in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., during the President’s Awards Banquet January 16.

Homestead Gardens, of Davidsonville, Md. received the “GCA Garden Center of the Year” award, while Nexus Corporation, Northglenn, Colo., was named the “GCA Independent Garden Center Supplier of the Year.”

Homestead Gardens, founded in 1973 by owner Don Riddle, is recognized by the industry as a premier independent garden center. The company has four major operating divisions including a 50-acre retain site featuring retail greenhouse and pavilions and 15 acres of outdoor sales area.

Community activity support is one of Homestead Gardens’ trademarks. It is the official gardener of Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Additionally, Homestead is active in the Annapolis Beautification Project, providing hanging baskets and containers for historic downtown Annapolis, Md., as well as community holiday decorations.

The supplier of the year award nominees were numerous, as the independent garden center industry is supported by a number of venders and providers. Nexus was selected for its three decades of providing greenhouse development and design of greenhouses for not only production nurseries, but retail garden centers as well.

A major change in Nexus operations in recent years has been in the area of specializing in design of greenhouses suitable for the retail garden center needs. One of the challenges has been creating an environment that meets the needs of growing, displaying and sales while providing a comfortable setting for the customer.

Nexus, owned by Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, is just as strong in industry support and community affairs as in greenhouse manufacturing. Company employees have been active participants in various industry events. Additionally, the company supports employees with matching funds for individual contributions to personal charitable programs within the Colorado area.

Industry Leader Passes Away

Richard J. (Dick) Hutton, 79, former president and CEO of The Conard-Pyle Company, West Grove, Pa., died December 22 in Wilmington, Del., after a short illness. He was the widower of Anne Postles (Penny) Hutton, who died in 1999 and with whom he shared over 50 years of marriage.

He was born in Philadelphia and lived in Whitesbog, N.J., before moving to a house in West Grove, Pa., where he spent 67 years. His studies at the University of Delaware, where he was a member of the Class of 1948, were interrupted by a three-year tour of duty in the Navy during World War II.

Hutton spent his entire professional career with The Conard-Pyle Company (Star Roses), retiring from day-to-day responsibilities as majority owner and CEO in the late 1980s. He remained involved with the company in the capacity of chairman of the board until the time of his death. Through his business affiliations he became active in local and national nursery organizations and held posts in many organizations, including serving as president of the ANLA in 1986-1987. He also was president of All-America Rose Selections.

Hutton is survived by three sons, Steven, John and Jeffrey, as well as an older brother and five grandchildren.

Franks Dives into Wholesale Nursery

Franks Nursery has announced plans to expand into the wholesale nursery business. In February 2004, Frank’s will start servicing professional landscapers in two markets in the Northeast. To aid in this expansion, Frank’s has entered a vendor partnership with Conard-Pyle, a grower in West Grove, Pa., with experience in the wholesale business.

Bruce Dale, Frank’s president and CEO said, “Many Americans want beautiful lawns and gardens but just do not have the time to create and maintain them. As a result, they have hired professional landscapers to perform these services and Franks Nursery wants to be the professional landscapers’ favorite place to purchase products for their customers.”

“The wholesale nursery business is a natural extension for Franks Nursery,” continued Dale. “With our buying power and our horticultural specialists, we believe Franks Nursery will be able to provide professional landscapers with high-quality, geographically specific products at affordable prices.”

Spring Meadow Nursery and Proven Winners Announce Partnership

Spring Meadow Nursery, a supplier of unique woody shrubs sold under the ColorChoice label, and Proven Winners announce an exclusive brand marketing partnership. Proven Winners has licensed Spring Meadow to market woody plants under the Proven Winners and Proven Selections brands across North America.

The exclusive partnership will result in all current and future ColorChoice varieties being marketed under the Proven Winners brand as “Proven Winners ColorChoice” plants. Additionally, a select group of premium, non-ColorChoice varieties from Spring Meadow will be sold under PW’s Proven Selections brand.

Spring Meadow and their licensed grower network will continue to sell these varieties as they have in the past. The partnership will not change the way the varieties are sold.

“Combining the two leading new plant programs — Proven Winners and ColorChoice — under one brand creates unequalled synergy,” said Dale Deppe, president of Spring Meadow Nursery, Grand Haven, Mich.

“For Spring Meadow and its customers, this instantly moves ColorChoice into a recognized consumer brand and creates real value for growers, retailers and the consumer,” continued Deppe. “Spring Meadow, our customers and our 83 licensed growers acquire the goodwill of the PW brand and access to new marketing expertise. The result will be much greater marketing support, more destinations for woody plants in garden centers, and greater sales of PW ColorChoice plants for growers and garden centers.”

For Proven Winners and its customers, the partnership extends the Proven Winners and Proven Selections brands by creating a greater PW retail presence with a focus on high value and profitable plants. Proven Winners acquires a strong pipeline of new varieties, and strong grower and consumer marketing programs.

The mission of both Spring Meadow Nursery and Proven Winners is to create value for their customers by developing brands recognized for the highest quality, most unique plants and products. In allowing Spring Meadow access to the Proven Winners brand, Proven Winners recognizes Spring Meadow’s similar focus and dedication to finding, testing and introducing only the best performing plants.

Since both Proven Winners and Spring Meadow are dedicated to innovative marketing, the partnership results in cross selling of woody and bedding plants and an acceleration of the branding process. It also allows both parties to share plant varieties that do not fall into the others’ normal product channel.

People, Places & Plants” Goes National

“People, Places & Plants,” a half-hour, weekly, television series began Monday, January 5, 2004 as a nationally aired program on the American One Television Network. The series stars Roger Swain, former host of “The Victory Garden” and Paul Tukey, founder of the regional gardening magazine People, Places & Plants.

With its weekly tag line of “information, inspiration and an invitation,” the series invites viewers to join Tukey and Swain each week as they visit interesting gardening personalities, beautiful horticulture places and learn about plant care and horticultural history.

Based on the successful regional gardening magazine, People, Places & Plants, the show is said to go beyond the usual “here’s a plant, and let me tell you how to take care of it.” The show has real people who love what they do and want to share that inspiration with others. The profiled people have a story to tell, and the audience connects with them while gaining gardening knowledge.

The viewer also gets to travel to interesting places such as Longwood Gardens and the Arnold Arboretum as well as some unknown public gardens, garden centers or personal gardens. The viewers are able to come away with an understanding of the location’s history and the specialty plants encompassed within.

With the new inception of the national launch, “People, Places & Plants,” through the America One Television Network and network broadcast affiliates across the country, more than 32 million households will now be able to receive “information, inspiration and an invitation” each week.

Genetically Engineered Christmas Trees?

In recent years, Christmas trees have become somewhat of a novel idea in the form of a science experiment. According to the Associated Press (AP) a number of growers in the United States are working on breeding efforts to produce trees, firs to be exact, that grow faster and denser, drop fewer needles, resist pests and require less trimming in hopes that consumers will want to buy a real tree instead of an artificial one.

A farm in New Hampshire has come up with a fraser-balsam combination, called a “fralsam,” that smells like balsams and has the needle retention of frasers, according to the AP.

Tree cloning is a commonality in the South; growers have been cloning specialty trees for decades, according to a Louisiana grower who produces a hybrid of Arizona cypress and Alaskan cedar called leyland cypress that has green, white and specks of gold leaves.

Part of this experimenting is also growing trees faster than they grow now, allowing a faster turn around for sales. The AP reports that people in the United States and Canada have been working on methods for decades to try to better Christmas trees, and so far, they have been successful. With more advancements, the perfect tree may be in living rooms sooner than later.

Bush Announces New Immigration Plan

In a call for action, President Bush announced plans for a huge renovation of the current American immigration system. Because the current method is not working, he is proposing to grant legal status to millions of illegal workers who are now in the United States, says the Associated Press (AP).

The president feels that immigrants should be able to have jobs in this country that American citizens are not taking. ANLA’s own Craig Regelbrugge was invited to attend the press conference on January 7, and he said it was a very exciting moment for the people in our industry. “We realized some years ago that this problem needs to be addressed to stabilize the work force, not only now but for the future as well,” Regelbrugge explains.

The new plan is designed to create a temporary program for undocumented workers currently in the United States and other countries that have been offered jobs here.

Bush said during the conference that we as a nation depend on and value immigrant workers, and we should have laws that back them up. He hopes this plan, if passed by Congress, would allow for a more compassionate way for immigrants to live in the United States, allowing them to be protected with labor laws, fair wages, the right to change jobs and general working conditions that the rest of the country already enjoys. Regelbrugge agrees that we need to find a way to draw out the illegal workers, support them and work with them to get legal status to be a worker in the United States with all of the opportunities that affords.

AP states that the new proposal would strengthen borders and create a more secure nation because there will be accountability of the people entering the United States, allowing law enforcement officials to focus more on eminent threats and not the people coming into the country legally.

This new plan allows for temporary workers to work in any type of business in the United States instead of certain sectors like a temporary work visa allows; however, specific details are still in the works. According to Regelbrugge, this is something that will help surface the undocumented workers so we can show them they’re needed by our industry.