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
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
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
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.
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By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
So many perennials have faded, lost their verve, stopped blooming. Enter the coneflower! In the opinion of Dan, the author, of this article Terra Nova has created, in form and function, the best coneflowers on earth. To learn more click here for an informative article.
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