Sunday, April 22, 2018

And What Do You Do?

Kevin Cohn

            When we meet someone new and try to get past the awkward dance of what to say, we look for neutral ground.  After a few minutes, it’s usually safe to ask: “And what do you do?”

            When it’s my turn, I’ve always said: “I’m in the greenhouse business, I grow plants for sale.”  The first part has always been misleading because it sounds like I sell greenhouses, so I added the plants.  It’s matter-of-fact and not that interesting.
            I ran into a TED talk that presented that we should start our answer to—what do you do, with “I help….”

            “I help Garden Centers find interesting ‘Mini’ plants.”

            This usually leads to follow up questions like: “How do you do that?” or ‘What kind of plants?”

            If this meeting is with the Garden Center houseplant buyer, I can go deeper.

            I have a collection of foliage houseplants that are not commonly available.  They are selected to be suitable for Miniature Gardens and Terrariums.

            But we know that 90% of ‘Mini’ plants sold are not used in a Miniature Garden or Terrarium.  They are grown as a windowsill plant or moved into a bigger pot as a houseplant ---often put into a decorative container.

            And what do you do?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Let's make a better Lipstick Plant

The Classic Lipstick Plant

     The classic Lipstick Plant that everybody has heard of with lipstick tube red flowers could be better.

         The goal of purposeful plant breeding is to create something new and hopefully better for the World to enjoy.

          I’ve been asked how today’s plants compare with 50-year old varieties.  That’s easy --- the plants are better.  Professional plant breeders have taken road-side weeds and selected them into flowering wonders.

       Amateur plant breeders have created exceptional improvements in the Plant World, also.  These dedicated hobbyists are amateur, but only in that they are not paid.

            All of the Aeschynanthus hybrids have been made by amateurs.

         I have a project for all to consider.  Flowering of A. lobbianus is unreliable.  What if it could be converted to a day-length sensitive plant like A. ‘Big Apple’?

         At least one of the parents of ‘Big Apple’ (micranthus X humilis) must be a long day plant.  We cross these species with lobbianus and select for large tubular red flowers and the seedling that is long-day.

            Is this feasible?  I don’t know yet.

            Perhaps others can speculate?

'Big Apple' is a major new commercial crop

A. 'Big Apple' -Award winner, DAVS, Oct 7, 2017

           Aeschynanthus ‘Big Apple’ has become an overnight success.  They are available in every garden center, every supermarket plant department and every big box store as plant of the week.

            I’ve missed April Fool’s Day, but it could happen.

            With my discovery that this unknown flowering houseplant is a long-day to flower plant, it can be programmed to flower every week of the year – guaranteed.            

Why won’t it happen?  Because nobody will do it.

There are fewer pot plant growers than there used to be and thus fewer specialist liner producers promoting flowering plants like ‘Big Apple’.

There are a few things to test, like post-harvest reliability --- will the flowers hang on in shipping?

            It will be fun to see if I can flower 200 4” pots of this interesting, unknown hybrid, ‘Big Apple’. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why does A. 'Big Apple' Flower?

A. 'Big Apple'  with every shoot budded
A. 'Big Apple' with buds set - April

Why does A. ‘Big Apple’ flower?

Aeschynanthus ‘Big Apple’ is not commonly grown in commercial horticulture.

Strike that --- it’s never seen.

The hybrid ( micranthus x humilis) is very colorful when in flower with red tubular flowers in clusters on an upright plant.  Aeschynanthus is a Genus with many species and hybrids of all sizes and shapes. And we know that flowering is variety specific.

            The one that everyone knows as the Lipstick plant is still sought after with its bright red flowers.

            ‘Big Apple’s flowers are much smaller, but a cluster of them is impressive.

            What makes ‘Big Apple’ flower?

            From our production of ‘Big apple’, I now know the trigger for bud-set and flowering.

            It is a long-day plant.

            We see small buds on every shoot now in April.  So, they were probably starting in March when the day length started to get longer.  We should see open flowers by May and continuous flowering though the Summer.

A day-length sensitive plant has its benefits to a commercial grower.  Vegetative growth and flowering can be programmed --- flowering is not random, it’s predictable.

So here it is.  Propagate in the Fall, pinch and build plant in the Winter.  Get buds in April, flower in May/June----- Guaranteed. 

So, what’s a hobby grower to do?  If it’s a windowsill houseplant, don’t expect flowers in the Winter.  Wait till Spring and Summer.

If you grow under florescent lights, understand that you can manipulate flowering with the number of hours of lights-on.  8-10 hours for growth, then 14-16 hours for setting bud.  I would expect once the buds are set they will open no matter what the day-length is.

A.    ‘Big Apple’ ---- A long-day plant.

Who knew?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

How many customers are enough?

Kevin Cohn

When I started in the greenhouse business and struggled to establish new customers, I was stunned by the sign at Witmer’s Greenhouse -----

            “We are accepting NO new customers”

            It was the boom days in the 70’s and 80’s when plant shops were popping up on every street corner.  Suddenly, houseplants were the ‘In’ thing. Suddenly, everybody was interested in collecting plants.  Suddenly, collectors cared about plant names and what was the newest variety?

            When I questioned the sign, I was told that the owners at Witmer’s decided that it was too important not to take care of their existing customers ---- the ones that bought for years.  They couldn’t jeopardize their loyal customers for the sake of the new upstarts.

            My na├»ve thinking was just grow more plants and satisfy everyone. But, expansion is not a causal undertaking.  What happens when the upstarts disappear?

            And, of course, they did disappear---- after a number of years.  The flash-in the-pan burned out.

            Houseplants are coming back, there is no question.  I get inquires every week for our ‘Mini’ plants.  I’m happy to open new accounts.
            But, what will be the set of circumstances when we ask:

                        “How many customers are enough?”

Monday, March 5, 2018

Chinese Money Plant for Sale...

Chinese Money Plant

          The Chinese Money Plant, Pilea peperomioides, is available for sale at Meadowbrook Farms retail area at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

          This plant is in high demand and elusive.  Don't miss your chance to snag one.

This made my day...

          These nice words came to me from Susan Sturdee______

     "Just wanted to let you know that your plants are fantastic and are making me very happy. I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show and found your plants at the Meadowbrook Farms display and I bought gesneriads and a creeping Peperomia and a few others. Can't say enough of the quality, size and price. I will look forward to finding your plants from now on. Thank you!"