Greenhouse Canada

Features Crop Culture Inputs

January 29, 2008  By Melhem Sawaya

A Greenhouse Canada Grower Day preview: new varieties, and how to grow them, among the topics. “The knowledge gained here will be beneficial throughout the year and for many years to come.” This year’s Grower Day will be held June 14 in Delhi, Ontario.

Greenhouse production, the market and the product mix, coupled with product presentation and buyer demands, are continuously changing. For example, chain stores often require specific varieties to be exclusive to them, which means breeders will quickly introduce these varieties, but without much experience, production-wise, to pass on to the grower.

An excellent variety, in terms of its breeding, is inferior if the grower does not have all the cultural information. It will take two growing seasons to learn all of the unforeseen production surprises. Obviously, there was no market study to find out the consumer appeal for this specific product. Sometimes it is a hit on day one, like Purple Wave petunia. For others, like Dragon Wing begonia, it is hit-and-miss. Consumer appeal is completely different than good garden performance.


Purple Wave has good garden performance. But Dragon Wing gives much better garden performance and is much more forgiving for home gardeners. However, the appeal for the plant wasn’t there the first years on the market, which led to growers having to absorb the Dragon Wing costs due to the fact that, in my opinion, no study for production knowledge or market appeal was done.

The reason I am mentioning all of these facts is to stress the point that growers, garden centres and buyers have to be on the leading edge when it comes to market trends and the way stores and buyers are doing business. We need to know the product and consider how it is best produced.

We have said before that the number one cost in a greenhouse business is shrinkage, and the number one shrinkage factor is unsold, fully grown products. In my 28 years in the greenhouse business, I have observed that successful growers are hard workers hungry for knowledge, and who don’t procrastinate in applying what they’ve learned.

The annual Grower Day (June 14 in Delhi, Ontario; hosted by Greenhouse Canada is only one way of learning about important industry trends. This year’s topics are important for innovative bedding plant, garden mum and potted plant growers, in addition to garden centre operators.

Here is an overview of the program and what it will cover:

1. Learn how to grow from seed as an alternative to vegetative varieties. The success of the vegetative varieties has encouraged many breeders to come up with varieties propagated from seed, but also having the growing characteristics of the vegetative varieties. The many advantages to varieties from seed include:

•    Less disease.

•    In general, seeds arrive in better condition than cuttings.

•    Opportunities for scheduling seed varieties.

•    Greater cost-effectiveness when done properly.

•    The product use and its flexibility.

•    Total control of production right from stage zero.

2/3. What are some of the new vegetative varieties and their uses? As we said earlier, every buyer wants to be at the cutting-edge with new introductions. This talk will cover the newcomers and how best to produce them. Nice varieties are only nice when they are produced the right way. Things to take home from this talk:

•     The new varieties and good-old performers.

•     Culture information.

•     How to use these varieties in mixed containers.

•     Garden performance observations.

4. How can you market your vegetative and exotic bedding plants for higher margins by adding value? Most growers concentrate on production rather than marketing, and marketing is different than sales. Marketing is how we package, time, add value, and communicate the right message to our customers. Sales is the application of our marketing efforts. This talk will show some marketing techniques and ideas that will boost your margins. Learn how to:

•    Pick the right containers for the right products and how to price them.

•    Add value with little cost.

•    Communicate with customers and help them to achieve better margins.

•    Make branding work for you.

5. What are the latest demands from your chain and produce store customers? This talk will cover:

•    Pots and sizes.

•    Packaging.

•    Delivery.

•    Shipping carts.

•     In-store maintenance.

•    Guaranteed margins or sell-through, or both.

•    Percentage for advertising.

•    Who is responsible for ordered, but not shipped, product?

6. What’s the latest on garden mum production? The inputs are relatively inexpensive, but so is the price we get for the finished product. The margin for error or shrinkage is very narrow. How do we optimize field production and shaded crops? This talk will cover:

•     Rooting.

•     The number of cuttings.

•     Timing and the number of cuttings.

•     Pinching or not?

•     Fertilization.

•     Growth regulators.

•     Pest and diseases.

The knowledge gained here will be beneficial throughout the year and for many years to come. Similar to past years, the format is very casual; ask questions as you think of them. The speakers are open to discussion during any part of their talks. The speakers, to be announced later, are the best in their fields and the most approachable people I know.

Come with your staff, especially if they are doing the work! We are always open for suggestions or constructive comments for the articles or Grower Day.

Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research coordinator to the horticultural industry. Comments on this or any other article are always welcome by e-mailing him at

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