Establishing your niche
Written by Dave Harrison
This year’s Greenhouse
Canada Grower Day was one of the most successful the magazine has
hosted. Some 225 growers and suppliers from throughout southern Ontario
Discover the Synergy of Perennials, Annuals and Shrubs was this year’s theme. Speakers included:
➢ Jerry Gorchels of Ball Horticultural – (1) Lantana & Angelonia, and (2) Alternatives to Vegetative Plants.
➢ Bernard Chodyla of GroLink – Garden Mums.
➢ Graeme Murphy, IPM specialist with OMAFRA – Duponchelia: Where do we stand and what do we do now?
➢ Laura Martindale, sales manager for Seacliff Greenhouses – An overview of the California Breeders’ Showcase.
➢ Roger Kehoe of Paul Ecke Ranch – New Guinea Impatiens.
➢ Laura Bitner, landscaping coach with Terra Greenhouses – Shrubs in Landscapes & Containers.
➢ Albert Grimm, head grower at Jeffery’s Greenhouses – The Art and the Science of Mixed Containers.
➢ Jeff LaCourse, of Ball Horticultural – Perennials That Add Value to Shrubs and Annuals.
This year’s Grower Day featured eight speakers and attracted some 225 growers and suppliers.
Note-taking by growers in the audience was fast and furious during the presentations; there was a lot of great information to absorb.
If your customers like butterflies and butterflies, they’ll love lantana and angelonia, said Gorchels. It’s a versatile performer. If you’re looking for something with different habits, shapes and forms, or to use in groundcovers, there’s a lantana to fit the bill. And thanks to new genetics, “it’s a much more symmetrical plant.”
Whitefly can be a problem, and that’s why constant scouting is important. “You have to catch it early,” he said. The sprays have to get “up and under” the leaves.
Chodyla said proper spacing with mums is key to avoiding stretch. And don’t forget to check the roots; problems often start here.
Murphy said Duponchelia fovealis “is not difficult to control, but very difficult to eradicate.” Experience by European and Ontario growers has shown that biologicals are at least as effective, if not more effective, as pesticides in controlling the problem.
OMAFRA floriculture IPM specialist Graeme Murphy discussed controls for Duponchelia fovealis, a major headache for a handful of Niagara growers this past spring.
Martindale said the California Pack Trials are a must-see for growers. It’s much more than just new plant introductions. Companies also display their latest marketing and POP materials. Everyone is looking for effective ways to better educate consumers and ensure their gardening success. “There are a lot of outdoor lifestyle marketing ideas,” she said, showing “how we can appeal to a consumer we don’t presently sell to.”
More marketing is being geared towards children, she added. Disney themes are a natural. “We must continue to appeal to the next generation of gardeners.” Some pots can be coloured. “They’re creating keepsakes.”
She added that every breeder had a display with a sustainability theme.
Of plant trends, she said grasses are gaining in popularity. They can hold their own against spikes in most container designs.
Succulents are also more sought-after, largely because of their drought-tolerance. “I’d highly recommend you start working with them, if you’re not using them already.”
Grasses are ideal container centre pieces. They can take the place of spikes. Proven Winners showcased its Graceful Grasses at this year’s Ohio Short Course, drawing steady crowds.
Vegetable containers draw attention. Consumers like the idea they can grow their own food.
Bitner said shrubs are quite popular because the colour lasts all season. They even look great covered in snow.
Shrub containers are relatively new. They’re great for people in apartments or who have small yards. “They're perfect for patios, decks and balconies.”
For those wanting to make an environmental statement, shrubs are the real deal. They attract wildlife, including a variety of bird species. The plants are effective air purifiers; indeed, some are and quite fragrant, such as lilacs in the spring. Their root systems help prevent erosion.
Grimm reminded his audience that gardening is not what it used to be. “It’s no longer just a flower bed; it’s an outdoor living area.”
Consumers are increasingly asking for help with their landscaping projects. It’s either DIFM (Do It For Me), or DIY (Do It Yourself) projects.
The trend towards container gardening means “instant results” for consumers. “This has been a growing trend over the past 10 years,” said Grimm. It doesn’t require a lot of space, and it can be completely replaced the following year.
“Customer satisfaction” is how we all make money, he said. “It’s important they return to buy more plants next year.”
And for that reason, it’s a good idea to avoid high maintenance plants that constantly need watering. “They can dry out completely over one weekend away.”
Breeders, growers and retailers benefit when gardeners are successful. This Goldsmith display at the Ohio Short Course shows consumers how to select focal, filler and cascading plants for their DIY containers.
LaCourse noted the changing role of perennials. “It has become an annualized market.” Consumers can select from a wide selection of colours and foliage textures. Perennials tend to have long flowering periods, and are ideal “season extenders.”
He suggested several perennials growers should consider adding the following to their product mix.
➢ Aquilegia ‘Double Winky’ has a considerable mass of flowers, ensuring great consumer appeal.
➢ Boltonia ‘Jim Crockett’ overwinters well and is a profuse bloomer. It’s a genuine attention-getter.
➢ Delphinium Guardian F1 Series features predictable flowering and makes a great centrepiece in mixed containe This year’s Greenhouse Canada Grower Day was one of the most successful the magazine has hosted. Some 225 growers and suppliers from throughout southern Ontario attended.
How do you get youngsters involved with plants? Disney characters, as this Ohio Short Course display by MasterTag shows, is a great attention-getter for budding green thumbs.
Planning will begin soon for next year's Greenhouse Canada Grower Day. If you have topic suggestions, please send them along to me at
, or to program moderator Melhem Sawaya at
Your input would be greatly appreciated.