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Celebrating success

CGC’14 featured a sold-out bus tour and trade show and strong international interest

November 13, 2014  By Dave Harrison

Tim Vaandering and Lorne King, during the Volunteer Appreciation awards presentation.

The Canadian Greenhouse Conference is definitely on a roll, given this year’s sold-out pre-conference bus tour and trade show. There were few, if any, empty seats during the keynote presentation by Sonja Dümmen, marketing manager for the Dümmen Group.

And this year’s show at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls was also notable for its increased international presence. There were a few new exhibitors from overseas helping fill the trade show, along with a delegation of 16 Australian growers in attendance as part of their North American study tour.

Our “Top 10 Under 40” award winners were formally announced during The Gathering social event the opening night of the show. Four winners were present for the presentations.


The pre-conference tour, sponsored by Damatex Control Systems and SGS Agrifood Laboratories, featured two busloads visiting five greenhouse operations in the greater Niagara region. Tour hosts were OMAFRA greenhouse vegetable specialist Shalin Khosla and greenhouse floriculture IPM specialist Graeme Murphy.

Tour participants also included growers from across Canada – with just about every province represented – and the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Tour stops included:

  • Boekestyn Greenhouses of Jordan Station, a major potted plant producer. It has completely overhauled its water and irrigation systems resulting in virtually zero discharge.
  • Bluewater Greenhouses, a cucumber grower in Beamsville. It features a unique wood waste fuel feed system developed in-house for its biomass boiler.
  • Westbrook Greenhouses’ Plant 4 in Grimsby, which specializes in potted orchid production at this location, one of three production facilities in the family-owned business.
  • Lunch at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland Station, Ont. Dr. Michael Brownbridge, research director of Horticultural Production Systems, welcomed the group, explaining the unique mandate of the not-for-profit centre.
  • Berkel Greenhouses Inc. of Simcoe, a vegetable operation specializing in tomatoes and peppers. The family business has deep roots in the greenhouse sector.
  • Proplant Propagation Service of Jarvis, with diffused glass greenhouses and customers throughout North America.

Sonja Dümmen drew a capacity crowd for her presentation on “European Trends Worth Watching.”

She noted that European consumers buy far more plants per capita than do consumers in the U.S. and Canada.

She also discussed the results of a German survey of people buying outdoor plants.

Forty-three per cent of those surveyed like to work with perennials, while 41 per cent said proven performance was more important in a variety than whether or not it was new. Twenty per cent prefer combination pots.

Fifty-six per cent choose plants by colour, and 56 per cent of respondents said they like edible plants, such as herbs and vegetables.

Fifty-two per cent said it was important to have plants that attract bees and butterflies.

One of the most notable responses was that only six per cent of gardeners were looking for low-priced plants.

In response to consumer interest, the growers association of Germany developed a size classification system for annuals. “Small” plants are less than 20 centimetres in height/length, “Medium” plants are less than 40 cm, “Large” are less than 60 cm, and “Extra Large” plants are more than 60 cm.

Dümmen emphasized that the industry must be prepared to increase its marketing efforts. “Growers and those in the trade have to create a funnel to collect funds to invest in the category.”

It’s important to emphasize the benefits of gardening.

The Stars for Europe poinsettia promotion program is a good example, she said. It was launched in 2000. Its website has received about 1.4 million “page impressions” from journalists and almost a half-million visits from consumers. The program has generated some 2,174 stories in the media.

Thursday’s Garden Centre sessions inclu-ded a discussion of “Pest Management in Public Areas,” by Graeme Murphy.

“Monitoring is critical,” he said. “This is the key word I want you to take home.”

He said that thrips is public enemy number one. “Focus on hanging baskets from Day 1,” he said. Plants most susceptible include geranium, verbena, dahlia, marigold and dracaena.

Rounding out the top-three pests are aphids and mites.

If using pesticides, follow directions carefully, maintain Restricted Entry Intervals, be aware of pesticide odours, and understand the nature of resistance.

Sticky cards can be used for mass trapping, and to alert mangers to growing pest populations.

Biocontrols can be an effective tool, especially if the garden centre is growing its own plants. However, plants brought in may be a challenge if the pest levels are too high or there are pesticide residues.

The use of biocontrols can also be a good sales tool. “Biocontrol may not result in higher prices for wholesale growers, but there are opportunities in retail. Promote what you’re doing.”

Biocontrols are especially effective in controlling thrips in spring crops. There are a number of predators, parasitic wasps and microbial products available.

Laura Martindale is the business development specialist at Horticultural Consulting. She has been a longtime visitor to various plant trials, including the California Spring Trials.

The trials are full of new product ideas, helping retailers “continue to intrigue gardeners.”

She listed a couple of strong performers she’s seen recently.

Dahlia is quite trendy in the market, and “Hypnotica Lavender” is a “show stopper” and a great performer at retail.”

Petunia is always a top 10 with consumers. It’s ideal for mixes and stand-alone products, and works well in all pot sizes. “It has big flowers and great consumer appeal.”

Calibrachoa is a versatile performer and can be used in “so many different places and in so many different ways.”

“Calibrachoa Conga” is compact and ideal for window boxes and spring bowls. It has “tons” of flower power.

“Calibrachoa Cabaret” is one of her favourites, being one of the most uniform performers and having a great mounded habit.

“Calibrachoa Kabloom” is a seed variety that should be trialled. It has a very uniform habit and flower timing.

“Impatiens Bounce” is resistant to downy mildew and a great shade plant. It has the same habit as impatiens walleriana.

Sunpatiens offers excellent heat tolerance and great garden performance.

“Helianthus Sunsation Yellow” is a great performer. “We should be selling more sunflowers.”

Among trends is the desire by new gardeners to grow their own vegetables.

Longtime volunteer Tim Vaandering, of Myers Lawn and Garden, is stepping down this year from the CGC’s trade fair committee. He was presented with this year’s Volunteer Appreciation award by trade fair chairperson Lorne King.

Booth awards were also presented (Click on photos for names).

Best Plant Material winners included Viva Flora (small booth), Flamingo Holland (medium), and Ball Horticultural Company (large).

Best Technology winners included Milleniumsoils Coir (small booth), Natural Insect Control (medium), and Plant Products Co. Ltd. (large).

Next year’s conference will be held Oct. 7-8 in Niagara Falls.

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