Monday, October 27, 2014

Primulina progress --- Where will it come from?

Primulina 'Aiko'
Story # 140,

            Maybe a few thousand people in the World know what a Primulina is.  Hobbyists who may be growing this obscure Genus from Asia have their own opinions about the worth of this African Violet relative.  Even the Gesneriad flower shows have had to compensate for the long delay in flowering by having judged classes both for in flower and not in flower.

            Because they can be grown as attractive foliage plants gives hope that Primulinas could be a commercial crop

            But where will the new varieties come from?  Who will champion the plants to develop the market, improve the variegation, shorten the flowering time, add new flower colors or develop faster production techniques?

            In the computer tech business, venture capital bets on the next Big Thing.  No such thing in horticulture.  The rewards are too small.  No horticulture company can be cashed in with an IPO.

            Progress will have to come from curious hobbyists who like to create something new.   That’s where the existing hybrids have come from.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Primulina --- So what's the common name going to be?

Primulina 'Nimbus' grown by Beverly Williams
Story  # 139,

            Plants have common names and botanical names.  Common names evolve over time and have infinitely different origins.

            The common names help the casual observer identify plants and make life simpler, e.g., the burn plant got associated with Aloe vera because its sap can be used on minor kitchen burns.

            Confusion arises when there are several common names like ‘String of peas’. ‘String of pearls’, ‘Pea vine’ for Senecio rowleyanus.

            Botanical names follow strict nomenclature rules, such that a particular species can only have one Latin name, described as Genus and species.  Some plants settled on the botanical name being the common name, e.g., Poinsettia and Chrysanthemum.

            The question is what are we going to call Primulina?

             I'm proposing that Primulina is like an African Violet, but better!

            Primulina species are native to China and North Vietnam.

            Will they become known as Chinese Violets, Vietnamese Violets or just Primulina?

            I would have voted for Chiritas, the previous and much cooler Genus name for Primulina.  Primulina will get confused with Primrose (Genus: Primula)

            My second choice would be Vietnamese Violets.  Vietnam should be known for something besides a futile war.

            The ultimate choice to match up with African Violets is Asian Violets.

            Will the name ‘Asian Violets’ become common?

Monday, October 20, 2014

10+ Reasons people buy 'Mini' plants

Pincushion spikemoss - Selaginella kraussiana 'Brownii'
Story # 138,

            There is demand for ‘Mini’ plants for Miniature Gardens.  Garden Centers that have Terrarium and Miniature Garden departments need and use a steady supply of small plants.

            What are gardeners doing with these plants?

            In spite of us wanting everybody to have a Miniature Garden in their house, the reality is that very few do.

            Here are some ideas of where this volume of ‘Mini’ plants is going:

1.   I want plants appropriate for a Miniature Garden --- the base group who need a tree, shrub, vine, flower and ground cover.

2.   I want plants appropriate for a terrarium --- smaller plants that like humidity.

3.  I need a small plant that will go into this nice pot I just bought.  People will carry the pot around to match the plant.

 4.   I need to replace a plant in my Terrarium/Miniature Garden.

 5.  I collect plants and I see a new one I like.

 6.  I need plants for a flower show display that I’m making.

 7.  I want to try a small plant of a new variety before I buy a big one.

  8. I can buy a lot of little plants because they cost less and I want to try them.

  9. I need a souvenir plant and this little one will do it.

 10.  I’m traveling and only have room for a small plant.

           11.  It’s cute!  Never underestimate the marketing value of cute.

We are never sure why people do what they do, but the more plant varieties you have, the more they buy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hemizygia 'Candy Kisses' - The New Flowering Plant for Winter

Hemizygia 'Candy Kisses', Budded, 15 October 2014
Story # 137,

            The Great Stagnation is revised.  There have been books written and arguments made that there is nothing new and nobody is working on anything.

            The crop of Hemizygia ‘Candy Kisses’ is budded and will be in flower by Christmas.  Although ‘Candy Kisses’ is sold in the Spring as a contrasting variegated plant for mixed planters, it has never been seen as a Winter flowering houseplant.

            Will gardeners find it interesting with bright variegated leaves and pink flowers or just complain that there is nothing new?

            I’ve decided --- the theory of stagnation in ideas and new products is just stupid.  So I won’t be writing a book about it.

            It has taken 2 years to get to this new crop grown as a flowering plant.  First seen at the Philadelphia Flower show in March 2013, it was not in flower.  Since short days initiate the flowers, that specimen plant in the show must have been growing under lights with extended day length for more growth. 

            Once I found some stock from a propagator in Israel, I’ve been selling small branched tip cuttings in the ‘Mini’ plant mix.

            Since no one is producing 4” pots of ‘Candy Kisses’, I’ve had to make it up as I go along.  Following a similar schedule as Mums and Poinsettias (other short day crops), seems to be working.

            Watch for the finished flowering version at Longwood Gardens and other progressive Garden Centers.

Hemizygia 'Candy Kisses' in 4" pot, branched

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It didn't start out as a brand.

Primulina 'Loki'  with custom blue tag
Story # 136,

            At least 80 % of B2B inquiries have come from owners or department heads of Garden Centers looking for small plants after seeing my plants at Longwood Gardens Plant Shop.

            How or Why?

            My 2 ½” ‘Mini’ plants all have a custom blue tag with common name, botanical name, brief culture and ‘Grown by Gary’s Specialty Plants’.

            It evolved.

            My buddy, Dave, a Master Tag rep wants me to get picture tags printed.  Because I have so many unusual varieties, often in small quantities, that would prove to be logistically impossible.

            The answer is to have my own tag printer and print tags as needed.  This has its own problems --- costly and time-consuming.

            But these blue tags (my favorite color) have become a recognizable benefit to the consumer.

            It’s amazing to me that Garden Centers will demand name tags to help with self-service and then accept tags that are so general and non-specific that they are almost worthless.

            As more and more Garden Centers are adding my ‘Mini’ plants to their mix, the blue tag plants stand out as the ones to buy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Primulina could become a common houseplant!

Primulina 'Loki' growing at the West window
Story # 135,

            This picture of Primulina ‘Loki’ is why I’ve changed my mind about Primulina as a potential houseplant.

            I’ve grown hundreds of thousands of houseplants in the greenhouse but have seldom been able to keep a plant alive in the house.

            These two plants have been growing at the West kitchen window for months.  One went to Nashville and was entered in the national Gesneriad Society flower show and came back.  The leaf damage is from the wind knocking them off the shelf, not a plant fault.

            They can be dry without harm and are now budded.

            What’s not to like?

Primulina ---- Like an African Violet, but better!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Plant Matters!

Blue Job's Tears - Pilea glauca - Groundcover
Story # 134,

            In the internet world, the advice/warning is ‘Content Matters!”  There is an industry of advisors preaching that ‘Content Matters!”

            What does this mean?

            I’ve come to believe that in advertising with words, that it matters what you say and how you say it.  Most advertising is ignored unless it’s something that you actually want to know about.

            The equivalent in horticulture is ‘The Plant Matters!’  The industry thrives on improving varieties and introducing new plants to gardeners.

            With my focus on ‘Mini’ plants for Miniature Gardens, the plants have been selected for use in that category.  They are houseplants that are proportional to small scenes in Miniature Gardens and Terrariums.  We are continually looking for plants that are small and have a purpose as a tree, shrub, vine, flowering or groundcover.

            All of the specialist propagators of small plants, who are trying to catch up with the demand, have their assortment.  Surprisingly there is not much overlap in varieties --- Everybody has their opinion.  I, of course, believe that my selected ‘mini’ plants are the best!

            Each plant matters.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to create a new commercial crop.

Primulina 'Loki' hybridized and grown by Peter Shalit
Story # 133,

            Walmart has a deceptively simple system for sales.  They continually monitor what sells and then get more of that.

            To create a new commercial crop we need supply to be introduced into the market.  Every Garden Center is looking for the “What’s new?” plant.  “New” keeps gardeners interested.

            Commercial plant production has evolved into three phases --- the specialist propagator, the grower/finisher and the retail garden center.  The last two in the chain may try a new plant but will only continue if it can be finished in 3 months or less and be durable enough to survive shipping and hold up in the store for weeks.

            Can Primulina ‘Loki’ be entered in this race for acceptance as a commercial crop?

            Nothing can happen until a specialist propagator decides to take a chance on producing Primulina.  At the moment, there are limited stock plants.

            A parallel crop to study is Cyclamen.  It is a long crop from seed to flower, so an extra step evolved --- pre-finished.  A finisher may decide to pot twice as many as he needs and then sell off budded plants in order to have room to space out his own.  This gives the final finisher the illusion that it is a short crop.

In any case, for Primulina to be grown as a flowering houseplant, multiple production segments may be needed to get it to flowering within a year.

Do Primulinas have the same potential as African Violets?  Violets started with only blue flowers, leaves that were brittle and detaching flowers.  Holtkamp Greenhouse solved these problems and now produces millions, worldwide.

There are Primulinas with blue, yellow and white flowers but flowering time is prohibitive. That leaves it to be grown as a small foliage plant and P. ‘Loki’ is the best one.

            If they sell, we’ll get/grow more.