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What’s New For Fall

April 24, 2008  By Brian Minter

We’re barely into the madness we call spring, and yet, it’s time to begin planning for fall. We used to ignore fall until late summer, but after seeing the results of successful fall planning, we start now.

We’re barely into the madness we call spring, and yet, it’s time to begin planning for fall. We used to ignore fall until late summer, but after seeing the results of successful fall planning, we start now.

Give full marks to Proven Winners’, the most recognized brand in horticulture, for taking on the fall market a few years ago. They didn’t get it all right the first time, but with persistence and better plant collections, they have taken a leading role.


Fall is all about foliage, grasses, colourful stems and evergreen perennials. We have not even begun to scratch the surface of the potential of grasses. In January we had a bout of 20 degrees Celcius weather in January, but our Acorus ‘Ogon’, A. gramineus ‘Variegatus’ and Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’ were not the least upset. Add to these the many other carex varieties, especially C. morrowii ‘Variegata’, the many new miscanthus, especially M. ‘Huron Sunrise’ and M. ‘Strictus Nana’, and the new pennisetums, like P. ‘Karley Rose’, and you’ve got the opportunity to dazzle and sell. We need to have them started now to have the effect we want by late summer. One thing I noticed in New York last September was the number of large five gallon grasses for sale an instant ‘wow’ impact in containers or garden plantings.

Hot Plants for Fall:
• Heuchera
• Carex
• Miscanthus
• Acorus
• Pennisetums
• Euphorbias
• Ajugas

Adding new grasses to the mix differentiates you from the rest.

Foliage isn’t just big, it’s huge, and again Proven Winners? deserves credit for branding some jewels. The tawny tans and black are hot, as are the cool limes, especially for fall. Heuchera ‘Crème Brule’, H. ‘Peach Melba’ and H. ‘Marmalade’ are some of the best new autumn colour blends. They darken with the cold, and do they ever blend nicely with grasses. For accents, it’s hard to beat Terra Nova’s H. ‘Lime Ricky’, but Proven Winners‚ ‘Key Lime Pie’ certainly gives it a run. A fresh lime in fall is really refreshing! Black is still where it’s at, and H. ‘Black Magic’, H. ‘Obsidian’ and H. ‘Blackberry’ all vie for the best black. These are show stopping colours that add richness and sophistication to any container or ground planting. Ajugas, too, deserve mention, particularly the huge ‘Catlin’s Giant’, the new tricolour A. ‘Burgundy Glow’ and the rich burgundy-bronze of A. ‘Black Scallop’. To add some dramatic fullness to containers, I love euphorbias!  E. despina, with its blue-green foliage and E. efanthia, an amygdaloides hybrid, with its vibrant burgundy, create quite an impact in any situation. We have never had such a wide range of foliage opportunities to create containers that just sing!

Focal points are great autumn sellers as well, and topping the list is the annual black millet ‘Purple Majesty’. The fact that it plumes up like a black bulrush makes it a natural for fall. We’ve potted them in attractive five gallon containers to sell by themselves, and they make great display features around the store. Potted half barrels with corn, ornamental corn and broom corn also create a look and feel simply not matched by cut stems. It’s all about ‘experience’ shopping, and these are inexpensive ways of adding value to the fall pumpkin and hay bale look.

Speaking of hay bales, we’ve had great success selling mini hay bales. We purchased a mini hay baler, much to the chagrin of many of our folks. Once you get the hang of it, you can fairly quickly pump out about 60 small (5 inch by 8 inch) hay bales from one bale of hay.

They sell for $5 each. The best reaction came from a local farmer who said, “What! Five dollars for that little thing? I get that for a whole bale!” With a little calculation, he quickly wanted to know where to get one. These little guys sell because they are so versatile for table decorations and displays around the home – and they are terrific revenue generators.
Fall is the best opportunity for many folks to enjoy their gardens and patios. Large potted grasses, colourful foliage perennials and novelty millet are just a few of the ways we can help them celebrate their gardens‚ last show of the season. Done well, these opportunities for outdoor fall plantings can be very successful for our garden centers.

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