GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show15
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Show #15/402

Gardeners today want classic, dependable plants and seeds as well as hard to find and unusual plants. Where do you go to find them and when you do how do you know you've found the latest and greatest plants. There are millions of plants sold each year but only the very best receive the special recognition - All American Selection Winner. In this show we visit a public garden and nursery that trial those plants, as well as others, to determine what they offer. In this trial garden plants are growing in a natural setting, this is the proving ground for many of tomorrows greatest plants and all time classics.

Len Bornemann is the recently retired Director of the Greenwood Area Chamber of Commerce and welcomes the Garden Smart audience to Greenwood, South Carolina. Greenwood is located in the northwest portion of South Carolina, in an area called the Piedmont. The Piedmont is comprised of rolling hills, lakes, pine trees and is located in the foothills of the Smokies. People around here are into gardening and outdoor activities, as evidenced by the fact that this is the 39th year of the South Carolina Festival of Flowers. When the Festival began it was very small with the centerpiece, the gardens at Park Seed. People from all over wanted to see the flowers and beauty of the area.The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce has worked very hard over these many years to bring people from all over the country to the area, that hard work has paid off and today the Festival is one of the top 20 events in the Southeastern U.S. The Park Seed Trial Gardens are still featured but additionally there are over 30 other events that take place over 3 weekends in June. It's a wonderful event, Len invites all to come and visit.

Chas Fox is the President of Park Seed and Wayside Gardens and says this is a wonderful place to work. Chas started a company in 1989 called Knox Nursery which focused on growing rare and unusual plants. Knox along with Clemson University helped develop some technologies for plant propagation. His background of being able to produce rare and unusual plants along with his marketing expertise made him ideal to lead Wayside Gardens and Park Seed. Park and Wayside have a history that dates back to 1868, they are extremely proud of their 138 years of excellence and satisfied customers.

Chas feels this company stands out because of its gardening diversity. Anything that a gardener would want, from seeds and accessories to rare trees and shrubs and vines are provided by Wayside Gardens. To be able to introduce these hard to find, rare and unusual plants they first trial them. This isn't a company that will introduce every new plant, they're hands on and that's what these trials are about.

We first visit the All American Selection (AAS) Trial Gardens, which is the marquee of all the trials. To be part of the AAS program is very special. Breeders throughout the world make submissions and a panel decides what makes the cut, then what's going to be evaluated based in large part on what existing plants they compare to. The carefully selected trial gardens are told to grow certain plants next to an industry standard. They follow, rigorously, the AAS rules. It's a blind study, the growers don't know where the entries came from but they, of course, know what the industry standard is. They're looking for special qualities, special traits that make the plant worthy of being a winner for that year. There may be a breakthrough plant with new color or new foliage. Or, it could be a difference in height or disease resistance, there are a number of qualities that would make a plant a winner or not. Here they compile all the information, it then goes to the committee. The committee then compares the data from all over the country, then decides which of those plants is an All American Winner for that year. This countrywide information is important to Chas because they have customers from all over the country and those customers want to know how it will perform all over the country, whether California, South Carolina, Montana or Iowa. If it's a winner it makes it into their catalogue. Joe feels it is important to him as a gardener to look for All American Selection Winners because he then knows that plant will do well in his garden. He knows it's a proven plant that's done well all across the country.

We first view 3 Marigolds, 2 are industry standards, Antiqua Orange and Inca II Orange, then the blind study plant. Again, they're not sure who the plant is from. The breeder is trying for a true orange and this new plant is clearly more orange than the industry standard. It also has some other nice features, it has good, contrasting foliage and a lot of new buds coming on. Thus you know it will be long lasting. Who knows? It could be an AAS winner. With the 3 side by side its orange color really appears vivid. But, without the comparison, who would know? It is quite a contrast.

We next view a Snapdragon with some unique, dark foliage. It is one of the new entries in the AAS Trials and they're striving to improve the foliage. It doesn't even compare to an industry standard. They had to go with the Black Prince and other mixes. This is a breakthrough plant since there's nothing that compares to it. If it's not an AAS winner, it's still fantastic. Even if it didn't flower it would be great because of the foliage alone.

Celosia is a hot plant in the industry today, it's being planted everywhere. This plant is a new introduction, has big plumes and blooms. It's a compact plant but as Joe sees it, if they were striving for a dark leafed foliage, when compared to industry standards, Red Kimono, for example the Red Kimono leaves are a bit darker. This could potentially hurt the score.

No matter young or old, it's always fun to grow plants from seed. Sunflowers are a great example. Whether a dwarf variety or the large plant with massive faces, Sunflowers are a showstopper and for generations have been a classic to grow from seed. But, Joe wonders, is starting plants from seed as popular today as years ago? Chas says that it's a billion dollar industry and it's not going away. Park is the largest seed provider to the retail industry in the U.S. They keep it that way because they know how to pack and protect the integrity of the seed, keep the correct humidity level and keep the temperature right so that the germ rate's correct when the customer gets it. Some seeds are large, like the Sunflower seed and easier to pack and some are tiny and miniscule and more valuable by weight than gold. In packaging and transporting seeds they must go through a number of processes to ensure that the customer is getting the right amount and that the seeds are successful. Joe thinks that when somebody starts a plant from seed and watches it grow, it hooks them on gardening for life. That must be true because the seed business is getting bigger all the time.

There are a number of acres dedicated to the AAS Trials but the vast majority of the trials here are Park/Wayside trials. They follow the AAS format but they test thousands of plants for their customers. They want to find the varieties that work best as well as determine the varieties that won't end up in their catalogue. Culturally they do the same in every bed but Joe spots one plant variety that's not doing well. That plant is with covered disease and with pests such as Japanese Beetles, Parent Squash Bug and its eggs. Across the path is a similar, yet perfectly healthy plant with no pests, no disease and it has big, beautiful fruit. Same conditions, different plant - the moral to this story is that if a plant isn't healthy and vigorous it is going to attract and invite pests and disease problems.

We next look at some beautiful Tomato plants, they're healthy and mature. Joe wants to know what is the secret? Chas says that first one must start with the right plant. This is Park's Whopper, their marquee Tomato plant, and he thinks the best tomato available. Secondly, one needs the correct soil with tomatoes. For that soil recipe visit our web site - CLICK ON - GARDENING TIPS.

Another commonly asked question is how to grow tomatoes and vegetables in small spaces. They have a demonstration area specifically for that. In a small space one needs a really dense plant, one that can hold up in a container. Tumbling Tom Tomato is very, very dense, very prolific in blooms and the fruit is prolific. It comes in red and yellow and is fantastic for a container. There is a trend developing, a lot of new plants are becoming available for container gardening, including a number of peppers. There is the Pepper Black Pearl, which has some ornamental value. Although ornamental, one can pluck the fruit, it's a really hot fruit and a fantastic pepper. Also, Pepper Redskin, is fantastic, great to have next to the grill, pluck it off the vine and put it right on the grill. There are pumpkins now available, one in particular is called Windsor. Imagine growing a huge pumpkin in a container on your patio or deck. Also, there are a number of Blueberries that are fantastic for container gardening, one is Blueberry Sunshine. Imagine sitting on your patio chair, reaching over and plucking a ripe blueberry and popping it into your mouth.

Not all container plants are edible. We next check out one in particular, Jim Alston introduced a bicolor Lantana several years ago. It has become one of the more popular Lantanas in the industry and has a fantastic bicolor bloom. It's beautiful.

Joe notices that as he looks around they're doing a great job here working with different color combinations. It's almost as though they are making a fashion statement. Chas says, a fashion statement is a great analogy. They view it that way and a certain segment of the gardening population looks at it as fashion. Gardeners want that finished look. They don't want to have to piece together different combinations themselves, they want to see what those different combinations look like together. In one case they have Sweet Potato Vine with Petunias. The colors play off each other. In one area are hot colors and, for some, hot colors appeal to them. Other groups like cooler colors, thus they utilize plants like Verbenas, Silver Falls and Calibrachoa. These are more pastel and cooler colors. So, it is a fashion statement. However, it's not only about the dress for the party, it's accessories as well - the earrings and the necklace. Thus they have designed a line of ceramic pots and have a craftsman who has put together a line of ironwork pieces that are unique to their company. These work great in combination with many of the annuals in container gardening. That is the latest trend and Chas is excited to be on the cutting edge of the trends. He says gardeners want a finished look. Here they have the accessories to either enhance or compliment plants.

Gardeners like to come to demonstration gardens and see plants that work together in real life situations. This garden is a full sun, deer resistant garden. Here one sees Salvia, Baptisia and Veronica, as well as Asclepias. There is Chasmantheum latifolium and Leucanthemum Becky, both great plants. These are all plants that are less tasty to deer. Joe notices a Coneflower or Echinacea. They have some great varieties. One is a variety called Ruby Star, another, Harvest Moon, as well as Sundown Sunset and Twilight. But there have been many new introductions, in fact, Chas says, people have become Cone crazy. There are a number of new shapes, like Razzmatazz which is a pompom shape, there is Fragrant Angel, Pixie Metal Bright and Orange Metal Bright. When a new Coneflower comes out people want to gobble them up and have them in their garden. The Coneflower allows one to get a great looking plant, yet one that is deer resistant. Joe reminds us though that deer will typically pass these over for something else, but if hungry enough they'll eat even the deer resistant plants.

Another demonstration bed is next to the hot pavement. It has a number of plants that work well together, such as Purple Wave Petunia, Red Thread, Jester Millet and some Dianthus. All have different textures and different colors. The Wave Petunia is great for a tough place. It was just named the All American Selection Classic for their 75th anniversary. With AAS it's not always about the new plants. AAS has looked at plants and said - this plant has stood the test of time, it's disease resistant, drought resistant, looks great, is prolific and something I would want in my garden. It is clearly a Hall of Famer.

We next visit the rose garden. Roses are important to Chas and their customers. Over the years they've introduced a number of new roses. This year Honey Dijon, Ebbtide and Double Knockout were all very popular. The trend for roses is on the rise but people want low maintenance roses. Another trend that's interesting is the internet. This will be the first year that Park/Wayside sales from the internet will surpass their catalogue sales. This is a trend they believe will continue. But as other companies realize this trend credibility will become more of an issue. Doing trials and having a call center that can handle calls and handle issues, the fulfillment side, knowing how to ship plants and during what time of year, all those things are very critical to creating customer confidence, which allows one to purchase over the internet. Joe knows that gardeners are picky, when they go to a garden center they want to see what they're buying and in fact go through the plants in an attempt at bringing the perfect one home. So for internet sales to surpass catalogue sales, it says a lot.

Eric Johnson shares his latest Tips and Ideas. Some of the most rare and unusual plants are available right at your fingertips through mail order/internet garden companies. If you're looking for something different and unique for your garden, nothing is safer and more effective than having plants delivered right to your doorstep. Eric just ordered plants 48 hours ago. They're now being delivered. Plants are living things, it's very important to care properly for them when the package arrives since success in the garden has much to do with how we treat them from the beginning. What he has received are 2 great hybrid Tea Roses. They are packaged with a plastic liner that traps in the humidity and keeps the plants fresh. As well the packaging contains shaved pine excelsior which keeps the roots in good shape. This rose is an outstanding specimen, a 2 year old budded rose. Eric thinks it a good idea to first lightly trim the roots. Sometimes when the plant is dug up there are some rough edges on the roots. Go ahead and prune them back, then lightly hydrate them. These plants are in great condition but it's always a good idea to make sure that the roots soak up a little bit of water before planting. Let the plants sit in water a little, especially for roses, which are grafted plants. Plant it below the graft line, that will ensure that suckers don't develop. Put the plant in a container, work the potting media in around the roots. It's important not to have air pockets, fill it almost to the top with soil media, then water it in. As everything settles lightly, pack in the media, but don't pack it in too hard because you don't want compacted soil in the container. Continue watering it in until all the air pockets are out and the soil is settled nicely around the rose plant. This will look great in a container in a couple of months. Nothing could be easier than making selections on-line and having them delivered right to your home. And the reward is a season full of blooms. FOE MORE INFORMATION VISIT OUR WEB SITE -- CLICK ON -- GARDENING TIPS

Joe says that there are a lot more options with garden plants today than ever before. There are more choices as to what to buy and how and where to buy them. Chas did a great job of helping us work through many of the options. Thanks Chas, this has been interesting and informative. You were a great tour guide and we appreciate your efforts.

Links ::

Park Seed
Wayside Gardens

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

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